The 13 Most Interesting Comics of August

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

1. March: Book Three

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

The third and final book in Rep. John Lewis’ autobiographical account of the Civil Rights Movement begins with a horrifying scene inside the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham moments before a bomb set off by white supremacists kills four young girls. It ends with the hope achieved by the march from Selma to Montgomery and the signing of the Voting Rights Act but with the solemn understanding that the struggle will outlive the Movement itself. Each volume of March has seemed to land with the added relevance of today’s racially charged current events. Book 2 was released shortly after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and Book 3 comes out amidst an even more pronounced national conversation about race and injustice. It even contains a scene from the 1964 Republican convention that is very reminiscent of this year’s GOP convention.

March is going to go down as one of the greatest books about this period in American history. Lewis, with co-writer Andrew Aydin, has managed to pack as much gut-wrenching emotion into his story as he does informative detail, and artist Nate Powell has shown exactly how to handle real-life material like this. It is a true accomplishment to create a work of such drama and visual grace that feels like it sacrifices none of the historical accuracy that is so crucial to conveying its story. This is a book that will be taught not only in history classes but in art classes as well.

2. Bera the One-Headed Troll

By Eric Orchard
First Second

Eric Orchard’s latest children’s fantasy graphic novel is an adventure about a troll named Bera who finds herself responsible for the care of a human baby that has mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. Bera, a simple pumpkin gardener, is not prone to adventure but realizes that it is up to her to keep this child safe from the dangers that lurk around and that consider this baby’s presence a threat.

Young readers will enjoy Orchard’s matter-of-fact humor and eerie-yet-cute artwork (sort of a cross between Victorian-era children’s books and Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas). Adults will marvel at it as well and may appreciate the book’s subtext, which subtly hints at issues of mental illness. Orchard actually drew part of the book from a hospital while being treated for OCD and anxiety issues. He also modeled the character of Bera’s nearly incomprehensible aunt off his own mother, who suffered from schizophrenia.

3. The Omega Men: The Complete Series

By Tom King, Barnaby Bagenda and Romulo Farjado, Jr.
DC Comics

This book almost did not come to be. Halfway through this planned 12-issue series, DC Comics canceled The Omega Men due to poor sales, only to reverse its decision in the face of fan protest. Now, the critically-acclaimed series (it was on my own Best of 2015 list) hits bookstores with a trade paperback collecting the entire story.

The Omega Men is responsible for launching the career of writer Tom King, who is now writing Batman. A former counterterrorism operations officer for the CIA, King took his real world knowledge and applied it to a story about fundamentalism and insurrection set in the far reaches of space. It has one of the most shocking opening scenes of any comic you’ll read this year, reminiscent of an Al-Qaeda-style video showing a kidnapped former Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner being beheaded. The Omega Men has also made the career of artist Barnaby Bagenda who, along with colorist Romulo Farjado, Jr., has a painterly, Eurocomics style that helps elevate the material above most cosmic superhero fare. With King, the artists make use of a nine-panel grid structure throughout the comic—a format made famous by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen—that gives this book a dramatic and unique pacing.

4. Spoiler: On the Campaign Trail with Jill Stein

By Sarah Glidden
The Nib

Politically-focused comics portal The Nib has come back strong from an extended hiatus with lots of coverage centered around the 2016 election. In their longest piece of comics journalism to date, Sarah Glidden traveled around with Green Party candidate Jill Stein to create something we don’t see much from the mainstream news media: an expose on a third party candidate.

Glidden is a cartoonist who specializes in journalistic travelogues like How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less and her upcoming Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria and Iraq. In Spoiler, she interviews Stein at her home in Massachusetts and watches her in action on the campaign trail on the west coast, giving one of the fullest and most nuanced accounts of Stein’s campaign as you’re likely to read anywhere.

5. The! Greatest! Of! Marlys!

By Lynda Barry
Drawn & Quarterly

Lynda Barry is one of the most influential comic creators of all time and one of the industry’s most important female cartoonists. A veteran of alt-weekly comics of the 1980s, her funny, observational comics about childhood, starring a freckle-faced little girl with the unusual name of Marlys were originally published as part of her Ernie Pook's Comeek strip. She has inspired many of today’s female YA-comic makers, particularly today’s most popular creator, Raina Telgemeier. Some young fans of Telgemeier’s comics may balk at Barry’s wordy, roughly drawn and decidedly not “cute” Marlys comics collected in this giant book from Drawn & Quarterly, but they will absolutely connect with the cutting humor and the surprising realness that Barry conveys through the eccentric Marlys.

6. All Star Batman #1

By Scott Snyder, John Romita Jr., Declan Shalvey, Danny Miki, Dean White and Jordie Bellaire
DC Comics

There was a lot of trepidation from fans and probably even DC Comics management when it was decided that Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo would no longer be the creative team on Batman. Arguably, their run on the title was the only aspect of DC’s 2011 “New 52" relaunch that will be looked back on as being a success. Snyder is not leaving the character though and instead is using the All-Star Batman title to tell a story he felt that he couldn’t do within his run on Batman proper.

All-Star will see Snyder working with an all-star team of artists beginning with John Romita, Jr., the longtime Marvel veteran. With Dean White’s coloring giving Romita’s art a modern, edgy style, the first issue of this series hints at a more fun and stylish Batman than we’ve seen in recent years. There is also a backup story illustrated by Declan Shalvey with Jordie Bellaire on colors that blends the ‘60s pop color of the Batman TV show with the darker, post-Frank Miller grit of the modern era.

7. This is Not Fine

By KC Green
The Nib

Another big moment for The Nib this month saw cartoonist KC Green revisit a 3-year-old comic that has since become the defining meme of the 2016 election. The first two panels of 2013's “On Fire” from his popular Gunshow webcomic have been shared many times as a meme to represent blind acceptance, but it blew up, so to speak, this year as a symbol for how we’re resigning to the madness of 2016 current events. When the GOP, a frequent target of the “This is Fine” joke, used the cartoon on their official Twitter account in a half-hearted criticism of the Democratic Convention, it seemed to set off a bit of anger in both The Nib and Green, leading to Green creating a sequel for the site called “This is Not Fine,” a perfect reaction to 2016’s normalization of the abnormal.

8. Kill or Be Killed #1

By Ed Brubaker, Sean Philips, and Elizabeth Breitweiser
Image Comics

The protagonist of Kill or Be Killed, whom we first meet as a masked gunman mowing down unidentified “people who deserve it” in a dark apartment building, fits the bill of a stereotypical "lone gunman." We see him pining for a girl who is playing with his emotions, showing weakness when confronted by bullies, and even attempting suicide by jumping off a roof. How he goes from being put upon and suicidal to becoming a violent aggressor seems like a story ripped from the headlines. But when he miraculously survives that fall, we learn it is thanks to a demon who gives him back his life in exchange for his promise to commit murder.

Brubaker, Philips, and Breitweiser return here to the supernatural genre they recently dabbled in with Fatale and while in some respects this feels like a palette cleanser coming off The Fade Out—their astounding and historically grounded tale of old Hollywood and film noir—this team is so on top of their game right now that anything they do is going to be a significant work.

9. Alena

By Kim W. Andersson
Dark Horse

Kim W. Andersson’s 2012 graphic novel Alena was recently adapted into a Swedish-made film that debuted at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this year. Its positive reception has led to Dark Horse Comics bringing the original book to the U.S. this month. Alena is a disturbing story of a teenage girl who transfers to a boarding school after the death of her girlfriend, Josephine. She is haunted both literally and figuratively by Josephine’s death as she tries to make new friends and deal with the bullying of the school’s top mean girl, but the constant visits from Josephine’s inexplicably living corpse are making that impossible for Alena.

Andersson’s story reads like a YA-style drama with some explicit elements of graphic horror and sexual situations, but its strength actually lies in its depiction of loss and bullying which at times is more realistic than you’d expect from a story that at least appears to be about a dead girl taking out her vengeance on the living.

10. Batgirl #1

By Hope Larson, Rafael Albuquerque, and Dave McCaig
DC Comics

DC Comics’ latest line-wide relaunch is aiming to fix some of the tonal mistakes they made during their last attempt to modernize their heroes, but one comic that didn’t need a lot of fixing was Batgirl. The previous creative team of Cameron Stewart, Brendan Fletcher, and Babs Starr went against the grain of DC’s grim and gritty house style to turn Batgirl into a modern, female-positive, and fun comic. With that group moving on to other projects, DC is being smart to keep the momentum going by putting their most interesting new creative team on the job. Hope Larson is the popular writer and artist of young adult graphic novels like Chiggers and the comic adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. This year has seen her working solely as a writer on multiple books, collaborating with artists like Rebecca Mock on Compass South and Brittney Williams on Goldie Vance. On Batgirl, she is joined by Rafael Albuquerque, an artist of dynamic and moody visuals, known for his run on the Vertigo comic American Vampire.

Larson and Albuquerque begin their new Batgirl series by keeping a lot of the tone that made the last series work but start out by taking Barbara Gordon away from her supporting cast and her hipsterish Gotham City borough, Burnside, for a soul-searching backpacking trip across Japan full of romance and hand-to-hand combat.

11. The Meek

By Der-Shing Helmer
Kickstarter

Der-Shing Helmer began working on her webcomic The Meek back in 2009 when she was still a teenager. Her lush, polished artwork looked more like stills from an animated feature than the typical lo-fi work you’d often see on the web at the time. It was one of the great examples of long form webcomic storytelling from the first half of this decade and Helmer managed to retain a loyal readership even during some lengthy hiatuses. Now, she is rewarding longtime fans and welcoming potential new readers with her first print edition of The Meek, funded via what is looking like a very successful Kickstarter. And as good as Helmer’s art has always been, she’s taking the opportunity of the new book to go back and polish up some of her earlier pages.

The Meek is an adventure that follows Angora, a green-haired young girl from the jungle who is sent by her grandfather on a mission to save the world from something called “The Center.” She has no idea how she is going to do this and hopes to figure it out along the way as her journey takes her to all corners of this fantasy world.

12. Lady Killer 2 #1

By Joelle Jones and Michelle Madsen
Dark Horse Comics

The premise of Joelle Jones’ Lady Killer series is basically: What if Betty Draper was Jason Bourne? In the sequel to the hit 2015 mini-series, prim and proper housewife Josie Schuller and her family have moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida where she is secretly starting up her own business as a freelance assassin.

While drawn in a modern comics style and rife with gory comics violence, Jones meticulously recreates the fashion and atmosphere of its 1960s setting, taking lots of cues from the advertising and design of that Mad Men era. Jones is known primarily for her stylish artwork but after co-writing the first series with frequent collaborator Jamie S. Rich, she is the solo creator on this new series (along with colorist Michelle Madsen).

13. Fantasy Sports 2: The Bandit of Barbel Bay

By Sam Bosma
Nowbrow Press

The delightful premise of Sam Bosma’s all-ages fantasy series is that a pair of travelers, a young girl named Wiz and her musclebound sidekick Mug, end up challenged to various sporting competitions by the fantasy-world creatures they encounter. After playing basketball with Egyptian mummies in volume 1, the pair is teleported to a beach town and end up in a volleyball tournament with the town’s amphibious residents.

Fantasy Sports 1 was Bosma’s first graphic novel, but, an accomplished illustrator and art professor, he is already a master comics storyteller. Comics about sports are a rarity in the West but have always been big in Japanese manga where Bosma has found a lot of inspiration for this series. This book is sure to be a hit with kids who’ll enjoy seeing their favorite sports played to the extreme by funny-looking monsters.

Whiten Your Teeth From Home for $40 With This Motorized Toothbrush

AquaSonic
AquaSonic

Since many people aren't exactly rushing to see their dentist during the COVID-19 pandemic, it's become more important than ever to find the best at-home products to maintain your oral hygiene. And if you're looking for a high-quality motorized toothbrush, you can take advantage of this deal on the AquaSonic Black Series model, which is currently on sale for 71 percent off.

This smart toothbrush can actually tell you how long to keep the brush in one place to get the most thorough cleaning—and that’s just one of the ways it can remove more plaque than an average toothbrush. The brush also features multiple modes that can whiten teeth, adjust for sensitive teeth, and massage your gums for better blood flow.

As you’d expect from any smart device, modern technology doesn’t stop at functionality. The design of the AquaSonic Black Series is sleek enough to seamlessly fit in with a modern aesthetic, and the charging base is cordless so it’s easy to bring on the go. The current deal even includes a travel case and eight Dupont replacement heads.

Right now, you can find the AquaSonic Black Series toothbrush on sale for just $40.

Price subject to change.

 

AquaSonic Black Series Toothbrush & Travel Case With 8 Dupont Brush Heads - $39.99

See Deal


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30 Cold, Hard Facts About Die Hard

Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988).
Alan Rickman and Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988).
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

What do you get when you mix one part action movie with one part holiday flick and add in a dash of sweaty tank top? Die Hard, John McTiernan’s genre-bending (Christmas?) action masterpiece for the ages, which sees a badass NYPD cop take on a skyscraper full of bad guys in the midst of an office holiday party. Here are 30 things you might not know about the movie, which was released on July 15, 1988.

1. Die Hard has a literary background.

Think some action-loving Hollywood scribe came up with the concept for Die Hard? Think again. The movie is based on Roderick Thorp’s 1979 crime novel Nothing Lasts Forever, which is a sequel to his 1966 novel, The Detective. In 2013, Thorp’s long out-of-print book was resurrected to coincide with the film’s 25th anniversary.

2. Die Hard was inspired by The Towering Inferno.

The idea for Nothing Lasts Forever was inspired John Guillermin’s 1974 disaster flick The Towering Inferno. After seeing the film, Thorp had a dream about a man being chased through a skyscraper by a group of men with guns. He eventually turned that snippet of an idea into a sequel to The Detective.

3. Frank Sinatra got first dibs on playing the role of John McClane in Die Hard.

Getty Images

Because he had starred in the big-screen adaptation of The Detective, Frank Sinatra had to be offered the role in its sequel. At the age of 73, he smartly turned it down.

4. Bruce Willis's big-screen debut was with Frank Sinatra.

In 1980, Willis made his film debut (albeit uncredited) in the crime thriller The First Deadly Sin. He has no name and if you blink you’ll miss him, but the role simply required that Willis entered a diner as Sinatra’s character left it. Maybe it was kismet?

5. Clint Eastwood planned to take a stab at playing John McClane.

Originally, it was Clint Eastwood who owned the movie rights to Nothing Lasts Forever, which he had planned to star in in the early 1980s. That obviously never happened.

6. Die Hard was never supposed to be a sequel to Commando.

This is one of the most popular internet stories about Die Hard. But according to Stephen de Souza, the screenwriter of both Die Hard and Commando, while there was a sequel to Commando planned, the only similarity with Die Hard is that they both took place in buildings. According to de Souza, Escape Plan is the closest to his original Commando 2 idea and Die Hard was never supposed to be anything but Die Hard.

7. Bruce Willis was hardly the studio's first choice for the lead in Die Hard. He wasn't even their third choice.

If Die Hard was to be a success, the studio knew they needed a bona fide action star in the part, so they set about offering it to a seemingly never-ending list of A-listers of the time. Rumor has it that Sylvester Stallone, Harrison Ford, Robert De Niro, Charles Bronson, Nick Nolte, Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Don Johnson, Burt Reynolds, and Richard Dean Anderson (yes, MacGyver!) were all considered for the role of John McClane. And all declined it.

8. Bruce Willis was considered a comedic actor when Die Hard came around.

Die Hard’s producers had nothing against Bruce Willis, of course. He just wasn’t an immediate choice for the role because, up until that point, he was known solely as a comedic actor, not an action star. Following the success of the film, the action genre really became Willis’s bread and butter, and although he has two Emmys for his comedy work, it has remained as such to this day.

9. Bruce Willis was barely even seen on the posters for Die Hard.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Because the studio’s marketing gurus were unconvinced that audiences would pay to see an action movie starring the funny guy from Moonlighting, the original batch of posters for the film centered on Nakatomi Plaza instead of Willis’s mug. As the film gained steam, the marketing materials were altered, and Willis was more prominent in the promos.

10. Bruce Willis was paid $5 million for Die Hard, which was considered a pretty major payday at the time.

Even with all the uncertainly surrounding whether he could pull the film off, Willis was paid $5 million to make Die Hard, which was considered a rather hefty sum at the time—a figure reserved for only the top tier of Hollywood talents.

11. Bruce Willis suggested Bonnie Bedelia for the part of his wife in Die Hard.

Though we suspect that she wasn’t paid $5 million for the gig.

12. Bruce Willis was able to accept the role in Die Hard thanks to a well-timed pregnancy.

The first few times Bruce Willis was asked to star in the movie, he had to say no because of his commitments to Moonlighting. Then costar Cybill Shepard announced that she was pregnant. Because her pregnancy wouldn’t work within the show, producer Glenn Caron gave everyone 11 weeks off, allowing Willis to say yes.

13. Sam Neill was originally approached to play the role of Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

But Neill ended up turning the film down. Then, in the spring of 1987, the casting director saw Alan Rickman playing the dastardly Valmont in a stage production of Dangerous Liaisons and knew they had found their Hans.

14. Die Hard was Alan Rickman's feature film debut.

Though Rickman may have played the part of Hans as cool as the other side of the pillow, it was actually his first role in a feature film.

15. John McTiernan originally passed on directing Die Hard—more than once, too.

And not just once, but on a few different occasions. His reason was that the material just seemed too dark and cynical for him. “The original screenplay was a grim terrorist movie,” McTiernan told Empire magazine in 2014. “On my second week working on it, I said, 'Guys, there's no part of terrorism that's fun. Robbers are fun bad guys. Let's make this a date movie.’ And they had the courage to do it.”

16. John McTiernan sees Die Hard as a Shakespearean tale.

In the original script, the action in Die Hard takes place over a three-day span, but McTiernan—inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream—insisted that it be condensed into a single evening.

17. Die Hard's Nakatomi Plaza is actually Fox Plaza.

Fox Plaza played the part of Nakatomi Plaza.Tristan Reville, Flickr

Yes, the corporate headquarters of 20th Century Fox—the very studio making the movie—proved to be the perfect location for the movie’s much-needed Nakatomi Plaza. And as it was still under construction, there wasn’t a whole lot they needed to do to the space to make it movie-ready. The studio charged itself rent to use its own space.

18. The room where the hostages are held in Die Hard is supposed to be Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater.

"In this period, Japanese corporations were buying America," production designer Jackson De Govia said in the Die Hard DVD audio commentary. "We posited that ... Nakatami Corporation bought Fallingwater, disassembled it, and reassembled it in the atrium, like a trophy."

19. The panoramic view of the city below in Die Hard? It's not real.

A 380-foot-long background painting provided the illusion of a breathtaking city view in the movie. And it was a state-of-the-art one, too, with animated lights, moving traffic, and the ability to change from night to day. The painting is still the property of the studio and has been used in other productions since.

20. Die Hard's success spawned a bona fide franchise.

In addition to its four sequels, Die Hard has spawned video games and comic books, too.

21. John McClane's tumble down a ventilation shaft in Die Hard was an accident.

Or maybe “error” would be a better word. But in the scene in which McClane jumps into an elevator shaft, his stunt man was supposed to grab onto the first vent. But he missed. By a lot. Which made the footage even more exciting to watch, so editor Frank J. Urioste kept it in the final cut.

22. Alan Rickman's death scene in Die Hard was also pretty scary.

At least it was for Rickman. In order to make it look as if he was falling off a building, Rickman was supposed to drop 20 feet onto an air bag while holding onto a stunt man. But in order to get a genuinely terrified reaction out of him, they dropped him on the count of two—not three, as was planned.

23. Bruce Willis suffered permanent hearing loss from shooting Die Hard.

Twentieth Century Fox

In order to get the hyper-realism that director John McTiernan was looking for, the blanks used in the guns in the movie were modified to be extra loud. In one scene, Willis shoots a terrorist through a table, which put the action star in extremely close proximity to the gun—and caused permanent hearing loss. He referenced the injury in a 2007 interview with The Guardian. When they asked Willis his most unappealing habit, he replied that, “Due to an accident on the first Die Hard, I suffer two-thirds partial hearing loss in my left ear and have a tendency to say, ‘Whaaa?’”

24. Alan Rickman wasn't thrilled with how noisy Die Hard was either.

Whenever he had to shoot a gun in the film, Rickman couldn’t help but flinch. Which forced McTiernan to have to cut away from him so that his reactions were not caught on film.

25. Hans Gruber's American accent in Die Hard caused a lot of problems.

The scene in which Rickman, as Gruber, slips into an American accent and pretends to be yet another hostage who got away was insisted on by screenwriter Steven de Souza, who wanted them in a room together to duke it out. But McTiernan was never happy with Rickman’s American accent, saying, “I still hear Alan Rickman’s English accent. I was never quite happy with the way he opened his mouth [in that scene] ... I shot it three times trying to get him to sound more stridently American ... it’s odd for someone who has such enormous verbal skills; he just had terrible trouble getting an American accent.”

26. The German Hans Gruber speaks in Die Hard is mostly gibberish.

And the bulk of his German cohorts were not German either. Bruce Willis, on the other hand, was actually born in West Germany to an American father and a German mother.

27. Bruce Willis has four feet in Die Hard.

As Willis spends much of the movie in his bare feet running through broken glass, he was given a pair of rubber feet to wear as a safety precaution. Which is great and all, but if you look closely in certain scenes, you can actually see the fake appendages.

28. You can see (but can't touch) John McClane's sweaty tank top.

Getty Images

In 2007, Willis donated the blood-soaked tank top he wore in Die Hard to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian.

29. Die Hard's famous “Yippee-ki-yay" line stole the movie.

It was a simple line: “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker!” But it became the film’s defining moment, and the unofficial catchphrase that has been used in all four Die Hard sequels as well.

30. The credit for Die Hard's famous “Yippee-ki-yay" line belongs to Bruce Willis.

In a 2013 interview with Ryan Seacrest, Bruce Willis admitted that “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker!” was really just a joke. “It was a throwaway,” said Willis. “I was just trying to crack up the crew and I never thought it was going to be allowed to stay in the film."