Let’s start with a question: Are you reading Sex Criminals? Because you should be. Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky’s comic about a couple who can stop time whenever they have sex—and therefore turn to a life of crime—is both hilariously raunchy and deeply heartfelt, frank in its language but never titillating. That’s always been the sort of metajoke with the book—if you only give it a cursory glance, it’s easy to write off as prurient and crude, but if you take the time to read it, you’ll be met with a thoughtful story that’s actually about sex, and not just full of it.
Tag: Comic Books (1-10 of 151)
Created by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag, Strong Female Protagonist is a highly acclaimed and much beloved webcomic about Alison Green, a superpowered teen that used to fight crime as Mega Girl. But after a crisis of conscience leaves her wondering how much of a difference she can really make by punching bad guys, Alison decides to pack up her cape and go to college to try to help the world in other ways.
Equal parts dramatic and comedic, the series has been running since 2012 and you can read it all for free here. But maybe digital isn’t your thing. Maybe you want to enjoy Strong Female Protagonist in a way that doesn’t require batteries, or one that’s easier to lend to friends. You’re in luck.
After a successful Kickstarter last summer, Strong Female Protagonist is coming to print. Released as a graphic novel that will be distributed Top Shelf Productions, the self-published book will include the first four issues of the web series, along with some bonus material. It’s well worth checking out, and it’s indicative of the kind of bold and interesting things happening in the world of webcomics.
Strong Female Protagonist: Book One will be available in December 2014.
It’s a sad fact that books are still regularly challenged and banned by various groups, both public and private, in the United States. But it’s heartening that organizations like the American Library Association and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund are committed to fighting that censorship—especially this year, when the ALA is focusing its annual Banned Books Week—September 21 to 27—on comics and graphic novels.
Granted, that attention cuts both ways. While comics are now being taken seriously as literature, they’re also being challenged and banned along with literature. Below is a list of 10 essential graphic novels that have been deemed, at some point, unworthy of First Amendment protection. Taken together, they’re a measure of just how far we have to go when it comes to freedom of speech—and how far comics have come, in terms of popularity as well as their ability to embody everything from satire to education to poignancy. READ FULL STORY
For all of its many faults, one of the best things this spring’s The Amazing Spider-Man 2 had going for it was Emma Stone in the role of Gwen Stacy.
The film’s script, unfortunately, didn’t really do her any favors, up to and including—here’s your spoiler warning—her death at the end of the film. Purists might disagree; they’d cite the fact that the film stays true to the comic-book source material and that it was a watershed moment for comics. They’d be right about those things: That’s what Gwen Stacy does. She dies. But with each passing year, it seems less like necessary canon and more like missed opportunity—as a new comic book released this week shows.
Americans have bought 5,618,000 graphic novels in 2014, Nielsen Bookscan reports—a 10-percent increase over last year. The rising success of the genre can be attributed to reliable fan favorites (The Walking Dead, Batman and Diary of a Wimpy Kid), the comeback of manga (Attack on Titan, Naruto, and One Piece), and breakout bestsellers like the space opera/fantasy series Saga (Image Comics), which topped lists in both its digital and paper formats. Similarly, Diamond Comics Distributors reports a near 4-percent rise in year-to-date sales and a near 6-percent rise in year-to-date units moved. The graphic novel business, including digital and periodical comics, made more than $870 million in 2013. [Publishers Weekly]
Other news indicating a resurgence in graphic novels is FilmNation Entertainment’s purchase of the film rights to The Undertaking of Lily Chen, a dark novel about “corpse brides” that “was inspired by an Economist article about the tradition of post-mortem marriage in China.” The New York distributor plans to turn the Danica Novgorodoff work into a Chinese-language movie, reporting it has had success in similar Chinese ventures before. [Mediabistro]
Another bestselling novelist is in the making his enthusiasm for the military known: James Patterson is donating 180,000 of his hardcover books to American troops. “Every day the men and women of our armed forces sacrifice on our behalf. I can’t think of a more deserving group to receive these books.” [USA Today]
Zero is a comic book with a conceit that starts out simply: Should spies akin to James Bond exist in the real world, they would be irreparably damaged people. So what if one of these broken, efficient killing machines discovered that he was being used by the wrong side? What would that look like?
Written by Ales Kot and illustrated by a different artists every issue, Zero tells the story of Edward Zero, the best operative in a mysterious Agency, in the middle of a crisis of conscience. Trained from the age of 10 to be a killer, put on drugs to suppress his emotions, and placed on the front lines of a secret war that will radically change the entire world, Zero’s story unfolds bit by bit over a 20-year span beginning in 2018 and ending in 2038. With a nonlinear structure, the reader knows from the beginning that Zero defects—the framing narrative places an old, weary Zero in front of a gun held by a child sent by The Agency, with the same drugs and training Zero had burning through his system. Each issue tells a story involving Zero or one of his associates set in that time period and beyond. Each chapter offers a peek into the messy, broken, and violent headspace of its characters and asks you to sort it out. It’s a fascinating, disconcerting work.
The experience of reading Zero isn’t always a smooth ride. There’s an intricate density to the storytelling—Kot often manages to pull off the difficult trick of constructing each issue with a satisfying, self-contained story that’s complemented with cryptic clues about the near-future world it’s set in and devastating revelations that affect the ongoing plot. And while there’s a lot of thought put into every script, the pacing is highly irregular, and the nonlinear story can make for jarring transitions. But Zero does everything else so well—from art to design to dialogue and beyond—that a sometimes hard-to-follow plot is more of a feature than a bug. The experience of reading a comic book is rarely a prolonged one, and as such having reasons to reread, to pore over slowly and contemplate the ways a particular artist suits a particular story, are all good things.
With Zero on hiatus until October 29, now is the perfect time to pick up the first two volumes, An Emergency and At the Heart of It All, which collect the first 10 issues of the series. Designed by Tom Muller (who is also responsible for the striking look on the single issues), the trade dress for both volumes feature one of the most striking designs for a standard trade paperback in recent memory. The upper portion of the cover is devoted to abstract imagery that reflects the themes of the book—An Emergency is a messy collage designed to look like it was ripped off pages from the comics within, just like its protagonist is broken down and stitched together again into something bleak and impenetrable. Similarly, the second volume takes key art from the next batch of issues and distorts them, much like a signal that isn’t quite clear. It’s a strong setup for what’s to come, even if that isn’t entirely obvious. On both volumes, the lower third of the cover starkly lays out all the relevant information: series, title, price, and credits. It’s an eye-catching look that begs to be talked about and read.
One caveat: Zero is, in a word, violent. There is a graphic brutality on display that some readers will find uncomfortable. While that’s the point, it doesn’t make it any easier to read. In interviews, Kot describes Zero alternately as “what if James Bond was real” and an exploration of “bleak male rage,” expressing the importance of following up depictions of violence with equally considered looks at its lasting, devastating effects. With the help of the many other talented artists whom he has collaborated with, Kot has done exactly that: tearing down the psyches of characters we often encounter in action movies, and inviting us to wander through the rubble.
It’s a disturbing place.
Five Weapons, Jimmie Robinson’s recently-concluded comic book series, has an irresistible hook: At a school where children are trained to be assassins, a pacifist vows to make it through the semester without touching a single weapon.
There are several ways a story about 12-year-olds learning to be professional killers could go wrong, even in a world where the most popular young adult franchise in the world is about teens forced to murder each other. But Five Weapons dodges all of them. Though it’s set in a world defined by violence, Five Weapons isn’t lurid or graphic in the least—in fact, it’s an all-ages romp that’s mostly about making friends.
Tyler Shainline is the new kid at the School of Five Weapons, where the children of assassins go to learn their parents’ craft. The school’s name refers to the five clubs that students can join, each focusing on a different instrument: knives, guns, staffs, bows and arrows, and “exotic” (poisons and such). As the son of one of the world’s most revered assassins, Shainline is instantly an object of resentment from his classmates. This only deepens after he refuses to choose a weapon and join a club. Each issue of the comic addresses the same issue: how can Tyler solve a series of impossible challenges without breaking his vow of pacifism? READ FULL STORY
While the Flash is gearing up for a run on his own CW series, debuting Oct. 7, you can get a jump on the scarlet speedster’s adventures today with DC Comics’ Digital First series The Flash: Season Zero.
Written by executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, along with series writers Brooke Eikmeier and Katherine Walczak, The Flash: Season Zero takes place after the pilot and before the rest of the series. It follows the young superhero as he begins to learn his powers with the help of his S.T.A.R. Labs team, under guidance of the suspicious Harrison Wells, as well as his role as protector of Central City as he faces off against newly super-empowered criminals.
While the Flash’s main Rogues Gallery, including Weather Wizard, Captain Cold, and Heat Wave, are scheduled to appear on the TV series, there’s still a limit to the scope of what the showrunners can realistically produce for television. The comic book series, however, will take advantage of artistic expertise of Phil Hester, showing The Flash take on even more outlandish foes from the DC Universe, starting with Circus Barker Mr. Bliss, and his Carnival of Metahuman Freaks.
But the comic won’t just be all spectacle. Expect more intimate moments between Barry and his supporting cast; his imprisoned father Henry Allen, mentor Detective West, best friend/unrequited love Iris West, and her new beau, Officer Eddie Thawne. With each issue containing some clues hinting at future episode storylines, the writers ultimately want this to enrich the TV viewing experience. Just don’t expect an Arrow/Flash crossover in these pages. Due to the shifting timelines between the series, the writers are saving that for the screen.
The first chapter of The Flash Season Zero is available today. New issues of The Flash and Arrow will be available bi-weekly, alternating every Monday, and they will also be collected and published monthly, the first print issue of which will be available on Oct. 1, the week before the TV series’ season premiere. Check out a sample of the artwork below by Phil Hester.
Anxious to leap back into another season of Arrow? Waiting with baited breath for Oliver and Felicity to explore their feelings for one another? Painfully awaiting the fate of Detective Lance?
The third season of the CW superhero vigilante TV series Arrow will return in just a few weeks, but fans can start catching up now on all the Team Arrow action with DC’s digital-first comic Arrow: Season 2.5. Written by Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim and executive story editor Keto Shimizu, who both write for the show, Season 2.5 will pick up directly after the last moments of the show’s season-two finale, leading fans right up to the opening moments of the season-three premiere.
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