Artist Thomas Pringle, who we’ve featured on Fine Art a few times, has written and illustrated a new graphic novel called Ascend: Hell Climber. The story: “The survivors of a downed patrol ship have only one hope of escape: Steal a shuttle from the highest level of an ancient defense tower.” You can check it out here.
There’s a lot to do in Marvel’s Spider-Man. Fight crime! Take pictures of famous landmarks (and yourself, doing cool things)! Unwittingly aid a surveillance state! But on top of all those, you can also unlock tons of suits from across Spidey’s history. Some are from movies, some are new to the game, but most have comic book roots and io9 has put together a video and a post to explain them all to you.
There are no major story spoilers for Spider-Man here, but if you don’t want to see most of the suits unlockable in the game—everything save the classic costume; the game’s new, white-spider-clad “Advanced” suit (as well as some other game-specific outfits); and the three movie costumes from Spider-Man: Homecoming and Avengers: Infinity War—now’s your chance to flee.
The Noir suit in-game, and on the cover of Edge of Spider-Verse #1.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Greg Land (Marvel Comics)
The Peter Parker of Earth-90214, this Spider-Man—from an alternate 1930s where he fought corruption at the height of the Great Depression—first appeared in Marvel Comics in 2009. He’s gone on to star not just in his own miniseries, but also have crossover roles in everything from the Spider-Verse event to the upcoming movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, where he’ll be voiced by none other than Nicolas Cage.
Scarlet Spider in-game, and on the cover of Scarlet Spider #3.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Mark Bagley, Andrew Hennessy, and Jason Keith (Marvel Comics)
Spider-Man in the ‘90s is defined by two words: “Clone” and “Saga.” This hooded get-up was the original costume of Ben Reilly, the Peter Parker clone led to believe he was actually the real one in an attempt to get Peter to give up the Spider-Mantle. Before Ben took on the role of Spider-Man himself for a bit, he swung into action as the Scarlet Spider, using this ensemble. He recently made a return to the comics after dying during the Clone Saga’s climax, where he had a new costume that was so bad, he was given this old one back a couple of issues into his own series.
The Mk II in-game, and on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #656.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Danny Miki (Marvel Comics)
Spider Armor Mk II
Created in 2011 as a spiritual successor to the very medieval-looking original Spider Armor, this suit was designed to offer Peter protection from gunfire. Why this specifically, and why hadn’t he thought of that literally decades before? Well, the reason this time was that Peter had temporarily lost his Spider-Sense, which let him just dodge gunfire when he needed to. Without that…well, you need something to stop bullets. And look a bit Tron, I guess.
The Secret War Suit in-game, and in the pages of Secret War #5. Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Gabriele Dell’Otto (Marvel Comics)
“Secret War” Suit
Not to be confused with another more famous black Spidey suit from a storyline called Secret Wars, this rather gauche outfit actually first appeared in 2004. Peter wore it as part of a covert operation alongside several other heroes, lead by Nick Fury, to infiltrate the country of Latveria and overthrow its then prime minister, Lucia Von Bardas. It didn’t exactly go to plan—Fury brainwashed the heroes into helping him, and it lead to a devastating reprisal attack on New York City—and Peter hasn’t used it since.
The Negative Suit in game, and in Spider-Man #90.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, Gregory Wright, and Kiff Scholl (Marvel Comics)
Although Mister Negative plays a huge part in the game, this suit doesn’t actually have anything to do with him. In the comics, it’s actually Peter’s usual costume, changed into its otherworldly color scheme by a trip to the Negative Zone. Later on, when Spider-Man was accused of murder in the “Identity Crisis” storyline and he tried out several new hero monikers, Peter adopted the suit into a persona he named “Dusk.”
The Electrically Insulated Suit in-game, and as the Electro-proof suit in Amazing Spider-Man #425.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Steve Skroce, Bud LaRosa, and Bob Sharen (Marvel Comics)
Electrically Insulated Suit
As you might be able to guess, this suit—more bluntly named the Electro-Proof Suit in the comics—was designed to insulate Peter from the shocking attacks of one of his oldest nemeses in the comics, Electro. Don’t ask why it took him nearly 30 years to come up with a specific costume for this, but Peter’s since integrated insulation into his normal suit for future electrifying scenarios.
Spider-Punk rocking out in-game, and on the cover of Edge of Spider-Geddon #1.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Gerardo Sandoval (Marvel Comics)
While in the main Marvel Universe Hobie Brown is better known as the vigilante called the Prowler, in this alternate reality (introduced as part of the massive crossover event Spider-Verse) he was actually the Spider-Punk, a rockin’ bandleader who also spearheaded the resistance against his reality’s dystopian president, Norman Osborn.
Peter’s wrestling gear in-game, and in Ultimate Spider-Man #3.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Mark Bagley, Art Thibert, Marie Javins, and Colorgraphix (Marvel Comics)
In multiple versions of Peter’s origins, after getting his Spider powers he briefly uses them to become a masked wrestler, making money before the fateful encounter with the robber that goes on to kill his Uncle Ben—yadda yadda great power, yadda yadda great responsibility. This specific suit is the one he wears in the Ultimate Marvel Universe during that process.
The Fear Itself suit in-game, and in the pages of Fear Itself #7.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Stuart Immonen, Wade von Grawbadger, Dexter Vines, Laura Martin, Justin Ponsor, and Matt Milla (Marvel Comics)
“Fear Itself” Suit
This suit is from the 2010 event that saw Cul Borson—an Asgardian who acted as the God of Fear—invade Earth and infect the populace with overwhelming fears. Tony Stark worked with the uru-metal-forging dwarves of Nidavellir to craft new suits for multiple heroes to fight back with, including Peter. The gauntlets on each wrist hid blades Peter could use as melee weapons. Talk about overkill!
The stealth suit in-game, and in Amazing Spider-Man #651.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Humberto Ramos, Carlos Cuevas, Joseph Damon, Edgar Delgado, and Joe Caramagna (Marvel Comics)
“Big Time” Stealth Suit
Worn during the storyline of the same name, this stealth suit was first made by Peter to combat the latest incarnation of the Hobgoblin. It could manipulate light to render itself invisible. The suit in the comics actually had two modes, based on the color of the spider-light on the chest: green, like in the game, was the invisibility mode, while red activated a sonic-canceling mode that could render the Hobgoblin’s attacks useless.
The Mk III in-game and in Amazing Spider-Man #682.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Stefano Caselli and Frank Martin Jr (Marvel Comics)
Spider Armor Mk III
Yes, more Spider Armor! This heavy-duty suit was created by Horizon Labs a year after the introduction of the MK II. It was designed as a last-ditch resort to use against the Sinister Six and packed with tech specifically designed to combat each member of the infamous villain team.
Both the standard and white 2099 suits, and their comics counterparts in Spider-Man 2099 #3 and Spider-Man 2099 #1.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Rick Leonardi, Al Williamson, and Noelle Giddings (Marvel Comics), Afu Chan (Marvel Comics)
Spider-Man 2099 Black and White Suits
Miguel O’Hara, the Spider-Man of a futuristic alternate earth, gets two suits in Spider-Man. The first is his classic suit, albeit sans the under-arm wings Miguel uses to glide around. The second, white variant was introduced in Marvel’s “All-New, All-Different” roster reboot, and was actually designed by the Peter Parker of the present main timeline for another alternate version of Miguel, who found himself briefly flung back into the present day.
The Mk IV in game and on the cover of Amazing Spider-Man #1.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Mark Bagley (Marvel Comics)
Spider Armor Mk IV
So. Many. Spider Armors. This is the latest, and most svelte of all the Spider Armor designs, and was Peter’s primary costume in the “All-New, All-Different” range of comics. Developed by Peter’s tech company Parker Industries, this suit was made of liquid nanotechnology that provided all the protection (and more) of Peter’s previous Spider Armors while keeping him agile. On top of that, it was packed with tons of tech Peter could deploy, from sonic blasters to spider-drones. Fancy!
The Spirit Spider in-game, and the Ghost Spider in Incredible Hulk Annual #1.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Al Barrionuevo, Mark Pennington, and Fabio D’Auria (Marvel Comics)
Known as the Ghost Spider in the comics (for reasons that will become very clear shortly), this is the costume of a Peter Parker from Earth-11638, where Uncle Ben never died and actually helped Peter become the costumed hero known as the Amazing Spider. Sadly, this Peter eventually went a little bad, and started hunting down Spider-People from other realities to absorb their powers. After being killed during the attempt to absorb the abilities of the main reality Peter, he was resurrected by the Doctor Strange of his reality (who was, err, actually Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk!) and fused with the spirit of vengeance, earning a second chance at life.
The Vintage Suit, in all its magical, cel-shaded glory.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games
This suit isn’t actually tied to any specific costume in the comics, but is instead inspired by the classic shading and inking techniques Steve Ditko and other artists used to bring Spider-Man to life in his earliest comic appearances. It doesn’t have the under-arm wings Spidey’s suit first had, but it does have an extra surprise “ability” in the game: it looks super cool against the photorealistic background of New York.
Last Stand Spider-Man in-game, and in Amazing Spider-Man #58.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, John Romita Jr., Scott Hanna, and Dan Kemp (Marvel Comics)
“Last Stand” Suit
This snazzy Spider-Jacket is the costume worn by an older Peter Parker in a potential future, where Peter is on the run after murdering Kraven the Hunter and Doc Ock and being expelled from the Avengers. If that wasn’t depressing enough, this Peter goes out in a blaze of grim glory fighting the NYPD in front of Aunt May and Uncle Ben’s graves. Jesus.
The Dark Suit in-game, and as seen in Spider-Man/Deadpool #8.Image: Sony/Insomniac Games, Ed McGuinness, Mark Morales, John Livesay, and Jason Keith (Marvel Comics)
This suit is unlocked by completing every one of the 12 Black Cat stakeout activities left behind by Felicia Hardy, who’ll play a bigger role in the upcoming DLC for Spider-Man. But it actually doesn’t have any connections to Felicia in the comics—it’s a stealth suit that first appeared in Spider-Man/Deadpool, donned by Spider-Man to confront Deadpool after the mercenary was hired to (and successfully does) assassinate Peter Parker…though, unbeknownst to him, Spider-Man and Spider-Man’s “employer” at the time were one and the same. Womp womp. Peter hasn’t actually worn it since.
Thanks to Warbly Jets for letting us use their song as featured in Marvel’s Spider-Man, “Alive”!
Hawkman has one of the most confusing histories of any superhero, thanks to the cycle of reincarnation that seen him live as an ancient Egyptian prince and a cosmic police officer, among the many roles he’s played throughout the millennia. In the right creative hands, that confusing continuity provides rich narrative material, and writer Robert Venditti and artist Bryan Hitch are embracing the complications of Carter Hall’s past to reveal new aspects about his character. Venditti’s best superhero work—Valiant’s Wrath Of The Eternal Warrior—had him delving deep into what makes an immortal hero tick, and the cycle of death and rebirth plays a major part in Hawkman, which has the central character coming face-to-face with his past selves.
This exclusive preview of this week’s Hawkman #4 has Carter soaring through the alien planet of Thanagar as he’s chased by his aforementioned police officer self, Katar Hol. It’s a thrilling showcase for Bryan Hitch’s action skills, taking readers on a high-octane tour of Thanagar that highlights just how exciting it is would be to fly through this sci-fi environment. Inkers Andrew Currie, Andy Owens, and Daniel Henriques reinforce the meticulous detail of Hitch’s pencils while Jeremiah Skipper takes readers on a color journey with his shifting palette, shifting from steely gray to bright neons to shimmering gold as Carter and Katar fly higher and higher. Venditti has done great work writing to Hitch’s talent for widescreen spectacle, and it’s reinforced what a cool action hero Hawkman can be, particularly when you factor in all of the different time periods and settings his past selves open up.
Sally, the younger sister of Peanuts’ Charlie Brown, did not perform well in school. She wrote reports the morning they were due. She failed multiple exams. As an overachieving child, I attributed her poor performance to laziness. But now that I’m an educator, I understand where she was coming from.
Sally had an abiding disdain for formal education. Her feelings are what I deal with every day, from so many students just like her in my 9th and 10th grade classrooms. They could be successful in school if they were given the opportunity.
Sally’s negative relationship with school started before she went to kindergarten. In two strips from August and September 1962, her brother introduces the concept of school and takes her there for the first time. She doesn’t react well.
Sally’s initial reaction is anxiety, probably because she’s never been to kindergarten before. When she returns that afternoon, she’s much more amenable to the idea of school.
Two things in this strip stand out to me now that I’m a teacher. The first is that Sally talks about her class using the word “we”—a good sign that her class is interactive and collaborative. Second, she’s completing tasks—singing songs, painting pictures, coloring with crayons—that suit different learning styles. Kids learn in different ways: working hands-on, listening to a recitation, or watching a visual model.
A classroom teacher, who must manage 20+ kids, doesn’t have the time or convenience to teach a lesson in different ways to different students. Instead, the teacher must cover different learning styles in one lesson: say the lesson aloud, model it on the board, and provide a visual aid or worksheet. In teacher parlance, this is called “differentiation.”
With proper differentiation, children will absorb the lesson in accordance to their needs. Happy kids are successful kids, and we see evidence of this positivity during Sally’s first year of formal school. She asks her big brother specific, detailed questions about her homework. She loves going to the library to read and take out books. She seems both driven and enthusiastic.
A year goes by, and Sally finishes kindergarten. In 1963—around the time she turns six—she enters the first grade. This remains her age and grade for the rest of Peanuts’ run. Something changes, and she doesn’t enjoy school anymore.
Both of these strips are from the same week of September 1963. Schulz doesn’t state directly why Sally’s attitude has changed, but we get some hints. The first strip shows that Sally is beginning to feel the pressure of expectation—of what the school want from her, rather than what she wants for herself. The second strip shows her standing beside her desk (most likely in a rigid row with other desks), reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. I remember memorizing the Pledge rotely as a small child, syllable by syllable, not completely understanding what I was saying. Sally seems like she’s in the same boat; she even includes an “amen” at the end of her recitation. The one thing she does know is that the pledge is delivered with the cadence and dutifulness of a prayer.
The Pledge strip was likely inspired by the school prayer controversy at the time, an issue Schulz felt strongly about. In a Comics Journal interview with Gary Groth in 1997, Schulz discussed the subject when Groth asked him about the below strip, also from 1963: “I don’t believe in school prayer… I think it’s total nonsense.”
To my eyes, it seems that Schulz, a devout Christian in his younger years and a secular humanist in his later ones, is advocating for a classroom with an open expression of ideas, where nothing should be mandated, sacrosanct, or so taboo that it must be whispered in private.
Subsequent Sally strips also contain this theme. Peanuts derides dogmatic education—obedience to ambiguous instruction, strict memorization of random facts, a focus on process instead of concept—in favor of a Socratic method, which asks open-ended questions and allows the student to connect the lesson to themselves, other lessons, or the present culture.
Schulz frequently criticizes school assignments that either assume a student’s experience or have a “do it because I said to” ethos.
Sally is hyperbolizing, but what she says rings true, especially in today’s context of high-stakes testing. For example, a reading passage about farming techniques is inherently biased against city kids, many of whom only know about farms second-hand. As a teacher, I cannot assume what contextual knowledge my students possess. If I ask them to do something, I need to have either shown them or taught them to do it. I cannot assign an analytical essay for homework and then be mad if students struggle if I didn’t explicitly show them how to write it. This makes me a slower teacher, since I spend more time on tasks, but It also makes me a better one.
Sally seems aware of the responsibility teachers have when they present their lessons and grading policies. In one of my favorite Sally comics, Sally receives a “C” on her coat wire hanger sculpture and takes her teacher to task over it.
In his book My Life With Charlie Brown, Schulz has the following to say about the comic’s inspiration:
It all started when my oldest son, Monte, was in high school and was involved with an art class where the project was a coat-hanger sculpture. He was telling me about it one day while we were riding home in the car from school, and he said that he was going to transform a coat hanger into the figure of a baseball pitcher. It sounded like a good idea to me, and I was anxious to hear about the final results.
Several weeks went by before he mentioned it again, and this time he told me that the teacher had handed back the projects and he had received a C on his coat-hanger sculpture. I remember being quite disturbed by this, because I could not understand how a teacher was able to grade this kind of project. I thought about it as the months went by, and finally translated it into the Sunday page where Sally expresses her indignation over receiving the same grade for her piece of coat-hanger sculpture.
Schulz (and Sally) are absolutely correct. A teacher should always have a rubric, a task checklist, or some grading standard, especially when grading something as subjective as art. Of course, a rubric or checklist can lead to its own set of problems—one’s definition of “originality” can differ from another’s—but at least the parameters are known to everyone beforehand. Assigning a grade without any sort of positive or negative feedback isn’t useful.
School doesn’t always equate to failure for Sally. She finds her greatest academic success when delivering something orally, and she is consistently clever with wordplay, tossing off puns as pithy icebreakers.
She also has a flair for the theatrical and knows how to frame her topics for maximum suspense. She plays on audience members’ expectations, hooking them in before revealing her true purpose. Presentations are the only times Sally appears happy and confident in the classroom setting.
The most disappointing thing about all of these interactions is the nameless, faceless teacher’s responses. We can’t hear them, but we know they’re negative based on Sally’s body language. Never has the lack of identifiable adult characters in Peanuts felt so alienating. Sally’s class is a rigid no-fun zone. A better teacher would have found some way to harness Sally’s free-associative creativity into an activity where she could succeed.
One of Sally’s quirks, beginning in the ‘70s, is her tendency to talk to the school building. She has one-sided conversations with it, during which she confides her insecurities. I used to find this silly, but now, as a teacher, I find it sad. She has no one in the school who empathizes with or understands her, no one she trusts enough to go to with her academic struggles. A brick facade is a better confidant to Sally than any of the faculty.
Teachers—good teachers anyway—are more than just the subject matter they teach. It’s an old joke among teachers: “I don’t teach English. I teach students!” Every student could use a mentor who serves as an active, sympathetic listener.
One Peanuts comic, from October 24, 1974, reminds me of the kind of teacher I want to be.
For this teacher, being strict and punishing a student is paramount. It’s a terrible way to treat students. A teacher, even at the risk of letting a couple of disobedient students go free, should strive to give them the benefit of the doubt.
I’ve taught everywhere, from one of the top-ranked academic schools in New York to a transfer school for students who are behind on credits. No matter where I go, one thing remains the same: There will always be students who test and push the limits. It can be as small as talking during a lesson, as mundane as cheating on a test, or as serious as stealing from a room. But the trick to lasting in this difficult profession—the majority of teachers quit within three years—is to never lose your optimism, even when it’s tested. And that’s easier said than done.
My laptop was stolen from my classroom a couple of years ago. Two students distracted me by asking for academic help while another snuck it past me. There’s is no greater feeling of betrayal than having your own kindness used against you. But if I got bitter or defensive, or if I started closing myself off from my students, it would have hurt someone who didn’t deserve my suspicion.
I’ll always like Sally and all the students like her—free spirits with good intentions who aren’t believed when it matters, and who aren’t supported the way they should be. But I can be different. And if I get taken advantage of because I err on the side of student advocacy, then so be it. It’ll always be worth it.
Few comic-book artists understand the power of darkness like Nate Powell. Darkness hides potential horrors, but it can also create intimacy, bringing people together by keeping the rest of the world out of sight. Powell fluctuates between these two facets of darkness in his new graphic novel, Come Again (Top Shelf), often bringing them together to add a sense of foreboding to moments of intense passion between lovers having a secret affair.
Haluska’s romance with Adrian, her married long-time friend, is complicated by the fact that they both live in a small, off-the-grid “intentional community” in the Ozarks, but they’ve found a place where they can disappear to be together, a hidden cavern containing a malevolent presence that thrives on their secrets. The doorway to this cavern is the first image of Come Again, emerging from in a two-page swath of black. This small doorway is surrounded by foliage, with thick chunks of grass creating sharp teeth along the top of the entry to immediately give it a sinister quality. These opening pages are a prime example of how Powell uses darkness to set the tone and scale of the story. Those dark two-page spreads create an ominous emptiness at the top of the story, which is then filled by the lush natural imagery of Haven Station’s surroundings as the perspective zooms in on Haluska’s personal journey.
Image: Top Shelf Productions
Coming off of the massive success of the March graphic novel trilogy—winner of multiple Eisner Awards and the first graphic novel to receive the National Book Award—Powell has a higher profile than ever before, which means higher expectations for his work. Come Again is a very different story than March’s autobiographical history of Representative John Lewis’ experience during the civil rights movement, much smaller in scope and untethered from reality, particularly in its final act. There’s an undercurrent of social commentary, but Powell is ultimately looking at one woman’s attempts to make up for the mistakes of her past, taking a mystical shortcut to absolution that dulls the emotional resonance of the story.
Image: Top Shelf Productions
Powell explores a shifting cultural climate as he delves into an isolated community born from of the hippie movement. Outside of Haven Station, the ideals of the “love generation” have become passé as the rest of the country deals with the fallout of Watergate and the Vietnam War plus the steadily growing tensions of the Cold War. Powell doesn’t hit this idea too hard; the winds of change are most aggressive during a scene where a punk band plays at a local market, infuriating the locals with the explosion of noise and combative lyrics. Haluska doesn’t have any personal attachments to the punk movement, but she’s visually tied to the group by her unusual hair, which has one side buzzed short because she recklessly trusted her son with clippers.
Image: Top Shelf Productions
The relationship between Haluska and Adrian is primarily defined by its secrecy rather than a deeper emotional attachment. There are flashbacks to the start of their flirtation when they were first discovering Haven Station, but these fill in the edges of their romance instead of getting to the core that has sustained an affair for eight years. There’s plenty of passion when they get physical, but there’s much more to be pulled from their complicated relationship. Powell isn’t interested in that, though, and the overtly supernatural turn in the narrative allows him to work around the consequences of their affair and both parties’ accountability for their actions. The impeccable visual craft of Come Again does a lot to make up for this weakness in the narrative, immersing the reader in an environment and society that is more engaging than the central relationships.
Online in South Korea, fans noticed that two panels in Kim Song-mo’s latest manhwa, the webcomic A Record of a High School Life, looked familiar.
Comparisons of the panels appeared to show the drawings seemed to mirror art from manga Slam Dunk, which ran from 1990 to 1996. (Of course, Slam Dunk’s manga artist Takehiko Inoue has also been called out for appearing to trace original NBA photos!)
According to mainstream news sites Joins and Naver, Kim released a mealy-mouthed statement about the allegations, saying that when he was a huge fan of the Japanese basketball manga and when he studying comic book art, he traced around 30 Slam Dunk comics. After that, Kim added, he’s been told that his work looks like that in Inoue’s manga.
Kim explained that he wanted people to understand that this was something his hand more than his brain had remembered. He apologized for creating this public brouhaha and said he is taking steps so this won’t happen again.
I guess it won’t, because in a just-published article, Joins reports that Kim’s webcomic A Record of a High School Life is now going to end serialization.
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Image: DC Comics
DC Comics has a huge roster of compelling villains who can carry stories without a superhero anchor, and this week’s Beach Blanket Bad Guys Summer Special gives 10 evildoers the spotlight in short stories by a fantastic line-up of creators. Lee Bermejo and Francesco Mattina pit the Joker versus Bizarro. Paul Dini and John Paul Leon give Mr. Freeze a giant mech to terrorize Gotham City. Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko, the team behind Green Lantern: Earth One (one of The A.V. Club’s Best Comics of 2018), dive into the character of Black Manta. Lex Luthor, Giganta, Gorilla Grodd, Deathstroke, and the Crime Syndicate also get attention, giving readers an expansive look at DC’s evildoers.
This exclusive preview of Beach Blanket Bad Guys Summer Special features two stories highlighting animal-themed villains: The Cheetah and The Penguin. The Cheetah’s tale features two alumni of DC’s Talent Development Workshop, writer Vita Ayala and artist Amancay Nahuelpan, crafting an emotional story that explores the complexity of Barbara Minerva’s relationship with Wonder Woman. They build on the work done in Greg Rucka’s most recent run on Wonder Woman, but the most exciting thing about this story is that it’s Nahuelpan’s DC debut, where he works with colorist June Chung to deliver lush jungle imagery and an imposing interpretation of the central villain.
The Penguin gets the spotlight thanks to writer Daniel Kibblesmith (a former associate editor of our sister site Clickhole), artist Laura Braga, and colorist Arif Prianto, who bring a character from Batman: The Animated Series to DC Comics for the first time. Veronica Vreeland debuted as a love interest for The Penguin in “Birds Of A Feather”, and she fulfills a similar role in this comic, which embraces the summer theme more heavily than any of the other stories in this one-shot. Kibblesmith captures the isolation and paranoia that make Penguin a dangerous tragic figure, and moments of cartoonish exaggeration in the artwork reinforce its connection to the TV show. There’s a lot of talent in this one-shot, and these creators showcase what makes DC villains so engaging.
Magic Leap has teamed up with Scotland-based Square Slice Studios, which was co-founded by comic book industry veteran Grant Morrison, to create content for its mixed reality headset. You might know the prolific writer for his work with Batman and All-Star Superman, as well as for creating the boundary-pushing sci-fi comics The Invisibles, among many other things. The studio will conjure up interactive experiences for the headset, though it has yet to reveal their exact nature. While we can probably expect some interactive comics, it’s worth noting that Morrison co-founded the company with a number of other creatives, including Grand Theft Auto artist Stewart Waterson.
Morrison’s statement hints at something big, though:
“Storytelling is my passion and I’ve found that new platforms allow me to extend my creative boundaries. We see Magic Leap as the next great platform for storytelling and we are excited to collaborate on content that helps bring our wildest dreams to life in the near future.”
Magic Leap also has a partnership with Madefire that will make the service’s mixed reality comics available on the headset from day one. But by teaming up with Square Slice Studios, it’s showing that it’s willing to invest in creating good content for its platform in addition to giving users access to existing non-exclusive offerings. The investment could pay off in the future when the company can no longer rely on years of mystery and hype to sell the device. Magic Leap’s mixed reality headset — one of them anyway, since there are supposed to be multiple versions — will start shipping this summer.
San Diego Comic-Con is upon us. And if you’re flying to this, or planning a trip to another geeky convention, you probably already know what you should and shouldn’t try to pack in your luggage. (It’s not in your best interest to surprise the Transportation Security Administration with a thermal detonator, Gom Jabbar, or Lawgiver replica when you’re putting your arms in the air like you just don’t care in the body scanner.)
While lightsabers are fine to travel with—and foam swords are not (at least, not as a carry-on)—what about all the other stuff you’re going to bring back from a convention? Expensive autographed comics? Priceless collectibles? Costume accessories?
Over on the TSA’s blog, the agency has a few helpful suggestions for how you might want to treat the items you’re taking to and from this year’s Comic-Con. These rules are applicable to any geeky convention you attend, and they’re worth filing away in the back of your mind the next time you suit up as Stormtrooper number 81310.
If you don’t want the TSA to break the seal on a product, ship it
Shipping items back home from a convention (or a vacation) can be a pain. It costs money, there’s no guarantee your carrier of choice won’t wreck your precious item (unless you protect it with all the bubble wrap ever), and someone might steal it off your doorstep even if it safely makes it to your house or apartment. Still, if you don’t want the TSA to open up something precious, don’t pack it in your luggage. As the TSA’s blog notes:
“There’s always the chance that a packaged item might have to be searched and opened, which would cause us to have to break the original seal. If you’re a collector, the last thing you want is a broken seal.”
Don’t pack items that might cause a crazy amount of panic at the airport
You’d be surprised—but probably not that surprised—at what the TSA finds in bags. (Its Instagram account is a gold mine.)
I’ll quote the TSA on this one, since it’s important (and some people still seem to think you can just bring whatever on a plane):
“If you’re not checking a bag and you have a realistic replica of a weapon or an actual weapon, you’ll want to ship the item. If you are checking a bag, replica weapons and actual weapons may be packed in your checked bag. Replica firearms can be placed in your checked baggage with no declaration or packing guidelines, but actual firearms must meet packing guidelines and be declared. Anything looking like an explosive (whether real or not) is strictly prohibited from air travel.”
Comic Books are OK, but …
The TSA has no issues with you flying with stacks of comic books—aside from the aforementioned bit that they might crack the seal on your pristine collectables if they need to search your gear for whatever reason. However, the agency recommends that you carry your comics with you, rather than packing them in a checked bag, to prevent problems:
“Packing these items in checked bags may cause alarms leading to bag searches that can cause a significant slowdown in the screening process leading to delays and bags possibly missing their flights.”
What about costumes?
If you’ve been working for the past 11 months on your gorgeous replica costume of a Warhammer Space Marine—first, I’d love to see it, because that’s awesome. And second, you might want to take a little extra care when traveling with its parts and pieces. (And consider creating items that can be disassembled and reassembled, which might make your travels a lot easier.)
If you’ve shipped the bulk of your gear and are hand-carrying some of the more critical props, consider leaving the TSA a little love letter when checking your luggage. Maybe you’ll get a screener who’s also a sympathetic sci-fi fan:
You should also consider adding some reference photos or anything else that might be able to help prove that your gear is for an authentic costume you’ll be wearing somewhere, not… well, whatever else the TSA thinks it might be.
You could also try bribery (or asking for an in-person inspection of your gear):
Also, don’t forget to bring along a kit for basic (or emergency) repairs, just in case a TSA screener isn’t kind to your gear:
If a wig is a make-or-break part of your costume, Annemarie from Travel on the Brain has a few helpful ideas for getting it safely to your final destination:
“Turn your wig inside out (unless it’s heavily styled or spiked, such as with cosplay wigs), carefully curl up long tresses and place it gently inside the wig top. Then put a hair net around it to keep everything in shape.
Now, store it in a zippable plastic bag to avoid moisture or at least put it in a (silky) scarf for protection. If your wig is very dear to you, pack it in your carry on. Alternatively, you can also wear it on your head. More wig packing ideas include special hair packaging boxes, hair extension or wig travel case or wig packing bags.”
Comic books provide infinite opportunities for creative expression in the interplay between text and artwork, and 2018 has been a remarkable year for titles with unique, confident perspectives. From invigorating takes on decades-old properties to new works about interspecies romance, “alt-right” conspiracy theories, and gender-fluid space explorers, the best books released in the first half of 2018 highlight the massive potential of the medium with a multitude of styles and themes. Below you’ll find our top 10 picks for the year’s most compelling, entertaining, and provocative comic books and graphic novels, providing a great jumping-off point for readers who want to experience the full scope of this art form.
Green Lantern: Earth One (DC Comics)
Image: DC Comics
In the pages of Gabriel Hardman, Corinna Bechko, and Jordan Boyd’s Green Lantern: Earth One, the Green Lantern ring is a weapon that anyone can wield. You don’t need to be chosen because you have extraordinary willpower. There’s no oath you say to charge the ring’s energy. These are significant changes to the Green Lantern concept that universalize it for a brand-new continuity; if you find a ring and a battery, you can tap into that power and use it for good or ill. The creative team behind Image’s Invisible Republic brings the same level of thoughtful detail to this new take on Hal Jordan and other members of the Green Lantern Corps, delivering cosmic fantasy blended with the sci-fi horror of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Hardman and Bechko’s story holds on to the willpower theme by detailing how Hal Jordan overcomes personal tragedy to find a new purpose among the stars. The artwork by Hardman and Boyd grounds this superhero adventure with detailed visuals that have real weight and texture.
Mech Cadet Yu (Boom! Studios)
Image: Boom! Studios
What will it take to turn Mech Cadet Yu into a movie? A lot of comics feel like pitches for big-screen projects, but Mech Cadet Yu is the kind of book that feels like it could permeate pop culture if it had the exposure of a live-action or animated feature film. Written by Greg Pak with art by Takeshi Miyazaki, Triona Farrell, and Jessica Kholinne, the series combines a number of commercially successful ideas in a story full of heart and reverence for the giant robot and monster properties that came before it. There’s an inclusive cast of young heroes paired with mechs that have evocative, action-figure-ready designs, and they’re thrust into a high-octane action plot that has them opposing authority to save Earth from alien invaders. This book is pure fun that will appeal to readers young and old, with exhilarating artwork that channels the intense enthusiasm of the mech cadets as they show the world their full potential.
My Boyfriend Is A Bear (Oni Press)
Image: Oni Press
Adorably charming with valuable insights into the struggles of modern dating, Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris’ My Boyfriend Is A Bear follows an unconventional courtship between a human woman and the bear that falls for her after a chance encounter in the woods. This interspecies romance is used as a metaphor for finding a person who doesn’t match the expectations of friends, family, and the rest of society, but gives you everything you want in a relationship. Ribon’s script is heartwarming with an undercurrent of tragedy as the couple braces for the bear’s inevitable goodbye during hibernation season, and she makes exceptional use of the comic book medium to blend visual lists and comic-strip-style storytelling into a larger narrative. Farris bolsters the book’s playful spirit with animated artwork overflowing with personality, imbuing the book’s ursine love interest with a warm, kind aura that spotlights why he’s such a pleasant partner.
Olivia Jaimes’ Nancy is the biggest surprise of the year, a revival of an 80-year-old comic strip that taps into the zeitgeist without losing the essential spirit of the character. Nancy has always had a relationship with modern technology, and Jaimes situates her in the present by incorporating smart phones, computers, and streaming services into her hijinks. Jaimes uses these devices to explore the human condition, with a recent Sunday strip examining how Nancy uses online rage to combat the existential crisis of realizing she’s an insignificant speck in a vast universe. Strips centered on Nancy’s aunt and teacher shift the focus to adult concerns, capturing a palpable sense of longing to return to the carefree days of youth they witness in Nancy and her friends. Jaimes’ impeccable timing shows her deep understanding of comic strip rhythms. The combination of current subject matter and classic aesthetic principles takes Nancy into an exciting new era.
Prism Stalker (Image Comics)
Image: Image Comics
The “oh shit!” factor of Sloane Leong’s Prism Stalker is incredibly high, with each issue of the “bio-punk” sci-fi series containing moments where Leong’s imagination gives readers something truly shocking and unique. A young woman is ripped from her homeland, forced into a life of indentured servitude, and enlisted in a private military firm settling alien territory, a journey that combines commentary on colonialism with an emotional through-line rooted in overcoming oppression in ever-changing forms. Leong creates environments with distinct tactile qualities—slimy, spongy, smooth, coarse—and colors them with a blazing palette of neons and pastels, making risky, ambitious choices that highlight the transportive power of severely saturated color. Working with letterer Ariana Maher, Leong creates a mesmerizing action-adventure with a bold design sensibility, building a comprehensive world that refuses explanation and just lets readers live in its vibrant glow.
Sabrina (Drawn & Quarterly)
Image: Drawn & Quarterly
Government black sites. Crisis actors. Conspiracies designed to desensitize civilians so they don’t realize their rights are being stripped away. Nick Drnaso creates a chilling story from these paranoid talking points in Sabrina, which follows a trio of people dealing with the aftermath of a murder that gains national attention. This brings out “alt-right” conspiracy theorists who are desperate to connect this senseless act of violence to a tyrannical plot, exposing the dark side of internet communities and how they can be manipulated to terrorize people. Drnaso’s second graphic novel is more plot-forward than his debut, Beverly, a similarly somber but more inert chronicle of suburban sexual frustration. His stark, sterile art style heightens the alienation felt by these grieving people as their pain is written off as performance, and a 24-panel grid sets a claustrophobic tone as they become trapped by weaponized opinions that turn into digital attacks.
Why Art? (Fantagraphics Books)
Image: Fantagraphics Books
Because we need it. Because it captures our fundamental identities and gifts them to a future that won’t know our living selves. Eleanor Davis’ graphic novel manifesto tackles the nature of art and the role of the artist in creating the world and its spirit, delivering a sprawling, satirical, and oh-so-satisfying story so much bigger than the book’s pocket-sized dimensions. Why Art? begins as a tongue-in-cheek guide book explaining basic categories of art before delving into deeper emotion properties, but things take a major turn when Davis introduces a group of artists preparing for a gallery showing that unfortunately coincides with the apocalypse. Faced with the total destruction of everything they know, these characters turn to art to save themselves, with Davis using these heightened circumstances to reinforce why artists are necessary for social progress.
X-Men Red (Marvel Comics)
Image: Marvel Comics
It’s been far too long since the X-Men line had an extraordinary flagship title, but that changed this year with X-Men Red, a series that puts the newly resurrected Jean Grey in charge of a team of mutants on a mission to change the world. After redefining the former X-23, Laura Kinney, in the pages of the excellent All-New Wolverine, Tom Taylor applies his talents to a broader X-concept in this series, assembling a team of new and familiar faces with an agenda that speaks to the current political moment. The X-Men Red Annual is arguably the best Jean Grey story ever told, using her time off the page to give her a fresh perspective on the world that sets her on a new path to fix the problems faced by the mutant community, exacerbated by the return of Professor X’s evil twin sister, Cassandra Nova. Mahmud Asrar’s sleek artwork maximizes the spectacle and emotion of Taylor’s scripts. This creative team’s chemistry has made X-Men Red a must-read superhero title.
XTC69 (Koyama Press)
Image: Koyama Press
In Jessica Campbell’s scathing take on gender dynamics, a trio of gender-fluid space explorers return to a futuristic Earth, abandoned for 700 years, in hopes of finding men to repopulate their society. The only living thing they find is Jessica Campbell, who was left in stasis for centuries because, as a broke artist, she really needed the $50 promised to her by a medical study. Campbell’s presence in the narrative adds a personal touch to this sci-fi comedy, her trivial freelance concerns about getting her $50 check contrasted with the life-and-death stakes of the scouting group’s mission. The humor really takes off when they eventually discover a planet ruled by men, where women are forced to wear garments that cover everything but their “jubblies” and the government center is the main hub for cross-fit, drones, fishing, amps, and comics. Campbell skewers contemporary misogyny in these pages, but also praises the strength and perseverance of women and non-binary individuals who have to deal with this bullshit on a constant basis.
Yellow Negroes And Other Imaginary Creatures (New York Review Books)
Image: New York Review Books
Political, poetic, and highly expressionistic, Yvan Alagbé’s comics are challenging works that place readers in situations that force them to grapple with painful ideas surrounding isolation, prejudice, nationalism, and colonialism. Translated in English for the first time, the comics in this collection are rendered with brushed inks that shift from crisp detail to abstraction, reflecting the ways Alagbé’s storytelling wavers between matter-of-fact bluntness and introspective contemplation fueled by emotional tension. This is especially evident in the titular work, which delves into a French-Algerian policeman’s obsession with an undocumented immigrant. Alagbé deftly balances socio-political commentary with characterizations complicated by years of internalized trauma. His comics ask a lot of questions but don’t provide many answers, putting pressure on his audience to fully consider heavy issues and develop their own opinions.