Summer reads from our Overdrive comic collection

Make the most of your downtime this summer and catch up on a series you’ve been putting off with our comic collections on Overdrive. We’ve got a range of long-running series for all ages and fans, as well as some recent graphic novel hits from 2021.

Just download the Overdrive app to your device of choice, find Wellington City Library in the library listings, sign in with your library card number and PIN (the last four digits of your phone number), and download a great comic like one of these!

Omnibus Editions 

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The best way to get into a long-running series is to grab an omnibus. These collections have anywhere from 20 to 50 issues apiece to keep you covered for any long rides or beach reading. For fantasy fans, we’ve got the first four Omnibuses of Mike Mignola’s beloved Hellboy, five collections of Stan Sakai’s celebrated Usagi Yojimbo saga, and an omnibus of the The Witcher comic series. If you’ve just caught up on The Boys on Amazon or rewatched Avatar The Last Airbender or Buffy over the lockdowns, why not check out the comics as well?

TV and Film 

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Speaking of film and TV, 2021 was a huge year for comic-to-film adaptations. The first season of Invincible dropped and rocked viewers with its epic battles and family melodrama; if you can’t wait until the next season, you can read the entire series in three big compendiums on Overdrive. For the Marvel fans, we’ve also got collections of Shang-Chi, the original Eternals series by Jack Kirby, and the first four volumes of the most recent Venom comic. Tales from the Umbrella Academy: You Look Like Death continues the Umbrella Academy story from the hit comic and Netflix show. And if the recent Denis Villeneuve film wasn’t enough for you, you can also check out Dune: the Graphic Novel, Book 1

Finally, you can also catch up on the Marvel Star Wars books, including the first four volumes of Star Wars and all five volumes of the acclaimed Darth Vader run by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larocca.

Superheroes

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If you’re looking for a sizeable superhero story to tide you over this summer, why not check out Brian Michael Bendis’ Avengers, starting in Avengers: Disassembled and continuing in the first four volumes of his New Avengers run, which has Spider-Man and Wolverine join the team for the first time. For the MCU fans, we have the Young Avengers Ultimate Collection, collecting the first twelve issues of the teenage heroes inspired by the Avengers, some of whom started appearing in this years’ Disney+ shows. And for more Marvel-set teen drama, there’s The Runaways, the hit comic by Saga writer Brian K Vaughn and Ms Marvel artist Adrian Alphona, about a group of teenagers who go on the run after learning that their parents are supervillains.

We have the first six volumes of both Ta-Nehisi Coates’ run on Black Panther, and the first six volumes of Al Ewing and Joe Bennett’s The Immortal Hulk, both critically-acclaimed series that revitalised their respective characters and came to a close this year. On the DC side, we’ve got Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s opening issues on Batman, the ‘Court of Owls’ storyline, and Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly’s beloved All-Star Superman. And to put you in the Christmas mood, what better book than Klaus, the secret superhero origin of Santa Claus himself?

Graphic Novels 

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For mature readers, there’s a number of long-running graphic novel series on Overdrive as well. For the history nerds, there’s Shigeru Mizuki’s Showa, a four-volume series cataloguing the history of Japan during the era of Emperor Showa from 1926 to 1989. From Image Comics, we have the first nine volumes of both the pop-god urban fantasy series The Wicked + The Divine, and the space epic on love, war, and parenting Saga (which is coming back from hiatus in January, so now’s the best time to catch up!). And with Taika Waititi announced to direct the film of Jodorowsky and Moebius’ acclaimed space epic The Incal, why not check out the original comic?

We’ve also acquired a number of new graphic novels to read digitally, including cartoonist Andi Watson’s dark comedy The Book Tour, Tania Ford and Nnedi Okorafor’s sci-fi immigration parable (and winner of the 2020 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Work) LaGuardia, Alison Bechdel’s newest comic The Secret to Superhuman Strength, and Emei Burrel’s political biography We Served the People: My Mother’s Stories.

Manga 

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Overdrive is the place to be to get your manga fix, whether to catch up on a series or check out a classic from the long history of Japanese comics. For starters, we’ve got the first six volumes of Kousuke Oono’s recent hit The Way of the Househusband, which follows a yakuza giving up the criminal life to pursue the path of quiet domesticity. Plus, the first 10 volumes of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, the first 10 of Naruto, the first six of Bloom Into You, and all 27(!) currently published volumes of My Hero Academia.

When you’ve caught up on your series, why not check out a classic manga as well? We have the first 8 volumes of the original Astro Boy series by ‘god of manga’ himself Osamu Tezuka, two omnibuses of the ‘magical girl’ series, Cardcaptor Sakura, and the whole series of 90s sports manga Ping Pong in its two volume ‘Full Game’ editions.

Children’s Comics

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We have comics to keep kids of all ages and interests entertained this summer. Our Overdrive collection has 24 volumes of the long-running Pokémon Adventures manga, which goes through all the Pokemon games and generations in comic form, and every volume of both Dav Pilkey’s beloved Dog Man, and the Eisner award-winning Lumberjanes.

For lovers of magic and mythology, we have all the collections of The Magical Adventures of Phoebe and Her Unicorn, as well as George O’Conner’s hit comic of Greek mythology retellings The Olympians and the Dragon Kingdom of Wrenley series, starting with The Coldfire Curse.

And while Comicfest sadly didn’t come to pass in 2021, you can read the comics of New Zealand comic artists on Overdrive, like Johnathan King’s new mystery comic The Inkberg Enigma and Kay O’Neill’s Tea Dragon series, starting with The Tea Dragon Society.

Treat Yourself to some Horror and History this Halloween

A lot of horror movies and books offer a commentary of modern times, but a more recent trend in horror writing is to add a horror scenario to a previous event or time in history. Graphic novels have really picked up this ball and ran with it, as the visual storytelling lets you quickly immerse a reader in a time and place.

This ‘horror in history’ approach can be a great gimmick to enliven an old horror trope, like throwing werewolves into the backwoods criminal underbelly of the Prohibition era (Moonshine) or vampires into the sun-drenched American Wild West (American Vampire). The best takes usually offer some kind of commentary on the times, whether its looking at the 1920s through the eyes of an underrepresented community, like the Sangerye family in Bitter Root, or examining a person’s life through the horror genre, like Sarah Winchester inheriting the Winchester rifle fortune and the ghosts of its victims in House of Penance.

For this spooky season, here’s a list of recommendations for horror comics set in different periods of history for you to check out.

Monsters from Mythology Return…to 1970s Detroit!

Abbott / Ahmed, Saladin
“While investigating police brutality and corruption in 1970s Detroit, journalist Elena Abbott uncovers supernatural forces being controlled by a secret society of the city’s elite. In the uncertain social and political climate of 1972 Detroit, hard-nosed, chain-smoking tabloid reporter Elena Abbott investigates a series of grisly crimes that the police have ignored. Crimes she knows to be the work of dark occult forces. Forces that took her husband from her. Forces she has sworn to destroy. Hugo Award-nominated novelist Saladin Ahmed and artist Sami Kivelä present one woman’s search for the truth that destroyed her family amidst an exploration of the systemic societal constructs that haunt our country to this day.” (Catalogue)

A House Haunted…by the victims of the Winchester Rifle!

House of penance / Tomasi, Peter
“A horrific story of a haunted house and one woman’s mission to wash away the blood curse of her husband’s invention from claiming her own life and soul” (Catalogue)

 

 

A Family of Monster Hunters…in the Harlem Renaissance!

Bitter root. Volume one, Family business / Walker, David
“In the 1920s, the Harlem Renaissance is in full swing, and only the Sangerye Family, once known as the greatest monster hunters of all time, can save New York — and the world — from the supernatural forces threatening to destroy humanity. But those days are fading and the once-great family that specialized in curing the souls of those infected by racism and hate has been torn apart by tragedies and conflicting moral codes. A terrible tragedy has claimed most of the family, leaving the surviving cousins divided between by the desire to cure monsters or to kill them; they must heal the wounds of the past and move beyond their differences… or sit back and watch a force of unimaginable evil ravage the human race.” (Catalogue)

Werewolves stalk the mountains…at the height of Prohibition!

Moonshine. Vol. 1 / Azzarello, Brian
“Set during Prohibition, and deep in the backwoods of Appalachia, [this book] tells the story of Lou Pirlo, a city-slick “torpedo” sent from New York City to negotiate a deal with the best moonshiner in West Virginia, one Hiram Holt. Lou figures it for milk run– how hard could it be to set-up moonshine shipments from a few ass-backward hillbillies? What Lou doesn’t figure on is that Holt is just as cunning as ruthless as any NYC crime boss and Lou is in way over his pin-striped head. Because not only will Holt do anything to protect his illicit booze operation, he’ll stop at nothing to protect a much darker family secret… a bloody, supernatural secret that must never see the light of day… or better still, the light of the full moon” (Catalogue)

A ghost story…on the eve of the Russian Civil War!

The gift / Maeve, Zoe
“The Shining meets Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette in this gripping debut from an award-winning talent The Gift is a fantastical/horror retelling of the story of Anastasia Nikolaevna and the Romanov family, the last rulers of Imperial Russia before the revolution. Her childhood days are filled playing on the palace grounds, the guards always on watch. She recieves a gift of a camera on her thirteenth birthday and begins to document her days. It is through her dreams however, where her gift of seeing the supernatural is made evident. She witnesses a creature on the edge of her vision. But could this creature actually be real? When the revolution begins, Anastasia’s world comes crashing down and she must flee. But something is following her, and it might not be human.” (Catalogue)

A new breed of vampire rises…in the Wild West!

American Vampire. [Volume one] / Snyder, Scott
“From writers Scott Snyder and Stephen King, AMERICAN VAMPIRE introduces a new strain of vampire – a more vicious species – and traces the creatures’ bloodline through decades of American history. This first hardcover volume of the critically acclaimed series collects issues #1-5 and follows two stories: one written by Snyder and one written by King, both with art by future superstar Rafael Albuquerque. Snyder’s tale follows Pearl, a young woman living in 1920s Los Angeles, who is brutally turned into a vampire and sets out on a path of righteous revenge against the European monsters who tortured and abused her. And in King’s story set in the days of America’s Wild West, readers learn the origin of Skinner Sweet, the original American vampire – a stronger, faster creature than any vampire ever seen before.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A little lightspeed music and reading for Space Week

Benson, Arizona, blew warm wind through your hair
My body flies the galaxy, my heart longs to be there
Benson, Arizona, the same stars in the sky
But they seemed so much kinder when we watched them, you and I.

Chorus to “Benson, Arizona” by John Carpenter, Bill Taylor and Dominik Hauser (from Dark Star)

The 4th to the 10th of October 2021 is World Space Week, where we celebrate the accomplishments humankind has made in exploring and studying the cosmos.

While scientists, engineers, and astronauts work to broaden our understanding of planets and galaxies beyond our own, writers, musicians and artists are already light-years ahead of the curve with imagining life in space; not just from the idealistic view that we’ll find better worlds when we leave our old one behind, but critiquing that idea as well. John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s Dark Star, for instance, deflates the idea that life in space will allow us to achieve a new state of cosmic enlightenment and technological efficiency; instead they present it as just another work-a-day job, like trucking or an office job today.

Here’s a list of new and lesser-known music, books and films to explore for Space Week 2021:


Planetarium / Stevens, Sufjan
“Inspired by the Solar System, Planetarium‘s 17 tracks are named after celestial objects and related phenomena. Each piece is a musical mini-drama, with the glistening wash of “Halley’s Comet” lasting about 30 seconds, and “Earth” getting the most attention at around 15 minutes. Keyboard instruments ranging from piano, organ, and celeste to Mellotron, Moog, and other synths blend with Stevens’ airy vocal timbre.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Trilogy; past present and future. / Sinatra, Frank
“One of Frank Sinatra’s final albums, Trilogy is a three-part celebration of his career, covering his classics (Past), some then-new songs (Present), and a finale ‘Future’ that is both baffling and strangely compelling. In Future, Frank imagines a distant age where one can travel the Solar System in an afternoon, and how mankind achieved an era of peace by burning all of Earth’s weapons (‘World War None’). It’s worth listening to just for the sheer dissonance of hearing ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ sing about spaceships.”

Dark star
“Dark Star was a student film expanded to theatrical length, directed by John Carpenter (Halloween, Escape From New York) and written by Carpenter’s UCLA classmate Dan O’Bannon (who later retooled one sequence of the film into the script for a little production you may have heard of called Alien). The film is a pastiche of 2001: A Space Odyssey, following a crew of spaceship workers who have the thankless task of dropping bombs on unstable planets for an interstellar mega-corporation. A deeply underrated and underseen cult-classic that inspired the likes of Red Dwarf and Red vs Blue, Dark Star is essential viewing for any fan of sci-fi comedy.”

Persephone Station / Leicht, Stina
“On the backwater planet of Brynner, a community of android refugees, all female, are hiding since they were able to awaken their AI and escape servitude. But the Serrao-Orlov Corporation is nothing if not tenacious, and it wants their property back. However, Persephone is run by Rosie, and they are in charge of an organized group of beneficent criminals and assassins, along with a bunch of worn mercenaries who have a thing for doing the honorable thing, despite the odds.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Will save the galaxy for food / Croshaw, Yahtzee
“Space travel just isn’t what it used to be. With the invention of Quantum Teleportation, space heroes aren’t needed anymore. When one particularly unlucky ex-adventurer masquerades as famous pilot and hate figure Jacques McKeown, he’s sucked into an ever-deepening corporate and political intrigue. Between space pirates, adorable deadly creatures, and a missing fortune in royalties, saving the universe was never this difficult!” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The farthest : the story of Voyager : 12 billion miles, and counting
“In 1977, NASA launched the Voyager missions as a way of exploring the solar system’s outermost planets, capturing images of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and their moons. “The farthest” documents Voyager’s journey, including first-hand accounts of the men and women who built the ships and guided their missions. Bonus film Second Genesis explores the scientific quest to find life, or evidence of it, beyond Earth.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Mooncop / Gauld, Tom
“The lunar colony is slowly winding down, like a small town circumvented by a new super highway. As our hero, the Mooncop, makes his daily rounds, his beat grows ever smaller, the population dwindles. A young girl runs away, a dog breaks off his leash, an automaton wanders off from the Museum. Mooncop is equal parts funny and melancholy, capturing essential truths about humanity and making this a story of the past, present, and future, all in one.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

We only find them when they’re dead. Book one, The seeker / Ewing, Al
“Captain Malik and the crew of his spaceship are in search of the only resources that matter – and can only be found by harvesting the giant corpses of alien gods that are found on the edge of human space. And now they see an opportunity to finally break free from this system: by being the first to find a living god.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Comics in Conversation with Literature: The Immortal Hulk – Part 3

The Immortal Hulk is the newest comic to feature Dr Bruce Banner and his green alter ego. Since the series’ debut in 2018, it’s become a massive hit with fans and critics. Written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett, the series centres on a new revelation about the character: Bruce Banner can die but the Hulk cannot, which makes them, as the title suggests, immortal.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to this undead twist, Ewing and Bennett use the story opportunity to turn Hulk into a horror book. The newly-minted Immortal Hulk battles such terrors as radioactive zombies, paranormal possessions, city-destroying kaiju, the Devil, the legions of Hell, and — my personal favourite — Xemnu the Titan, a cyborg yeti alien who can manipulate people’s memories through smartphones.

The other unique angle to The Immortal Hulk is that every issue opens with a quote from a famous book or writer, chosen by Ewing to give thematic weight to each issue and something for the audience to ponder on a close reading. Below, I’ve picked out some of the best opening quotations from volumes seven to nine of The Immortal Hulk, and linked them to the works of their respective writers so you can find them in our collection.

If you want to read the comic first, you can order the first volume here or read it on Overdrive here. Check out the previous editions of this blog (Part One and Part Two) to read about all the references in the first six volumes. If you’ve read up to volume seven, reserve it here.

“And from this mind I will not flee, but to you all that misjudge me, do protest as ye may see, that I am as I am and so will I be” – Collected poems / Wyatt, Thomas

The quote that opens Volume 7 is the final line from Sir Thomas Wyatt’s poem, “The recured Lover exulteth in his Freedom, and voweth to remain free until Death“, a poem about defining one’s identity in the face of other narratives forced upon it. Volume 7 also introduces Xemnu the Titan to the series (who first appeared as ‘Xemnu the Living Hulk’ in Journey into Mystery #62 from 1960). The Roxxon corporation exploits Xemnu’s ability to hypnotise people through media like televisions and smartphones to make everyone forget the Hulk existed, including Banner himself, and plant a false memory in the public consciousness that Xemnu was always the Hulk. With the other personas of the Hulk locked up in Banner’s mind, it falls to the child-like ‘Savage Hulk’ to remind Banner who he is: that ‘Hulk is Hulk’.

Continue reading “Comics in Conversation with Literature: The Immortal Hulk – Part 3”

Task Force Xceptional: A Dirty Half-Dozen Recommendations for DC’s second-chance Squad

The story of the Suicide Squad is one of second-chances. When DC Comics relaunched all their series following the Crisis on Infinite Earths event in 1986, a lot of characters were left untouched, particularly a lot of the minor villain characters like Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, and Count Vertigo. Inspired by The Dirty Dozen, writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale and artist Luke McDonnell gave these characters a new lease on life as Task Force X, a team of super-criminal prisoners doing covert missions for the government in exchange for shorter prison sentences. The team is supposed to be both deniable and expendable, a fact that their leader, the aggressively pragmatic federal agent Amanda Waller, rarely lets them forget. Many team members would wind up losing their lives over the course of the series, a rare thrill in a medium where characters rarely stayed dead for good. Though the series has been retooled and rebooted numerous times since 1986, it’s so good a premise that it rarely stays gone for good.

Now the team is getting a second-chance at a movie with James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad this August, which is said to be directly inspired by both the original 80s run and The Dirty Dozen, so we’ve assembled a rag-tag ‘dirty half-dozen’ recommendations to get you prepped. Whether you’re interested in the origins of the team or just want to see how many people King Shark can eat in one issue, we’ve got you covered!

Suicide Squad [4] : the Janus directive / Ostrander, John
When Amanda Waller begins to send out Task Force X for her own secret agenda, it draws the attention of every covert ops organisation in the DC Universe, and bring the hammer down in response. Little do all they know that Waller is being manipulated by another mysterious higher power. Part of the classic Ostrander/Yale/McDonnell run, The Janus Directive was one of the defining arcs of the original 80s series.

Suicide Squad. Volume 4, Discipline and punish / Kot, Ales
The highlight of the ‘New 52’ run on Suicide Squad is Ales Kot’s all-too-brief tenure on the book from 2014. After several missions gone awry, the team gains a consultant in the form of James Gordon Jr., the ‘recovering psychopath’ son of Commissioner Gordon, to help them better acclimate to prison life and find out what motivates them. Discipline and Punish (named for Michel Foucault’s book about the institutional origin of prisons) takes a more psychological spin on the team reminiscent of The Silence of the Lambs while still managing to be fun and breezy, a rare balance that Kot nails so well you wish they stuck around longer.

Suicide Squad : hell to pay / Parker, Jeff
Based on the animated film of the same name, Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay follows the team being recruited to obtain a mystical artifact that seems too good to be true; a ‘Get Out of Hell Free’ card that allows the holder to completely absolve themselves from eternal damnation. Of course, sending a bunch of hardened criminals with rap-sheets longer than Plastic Man’s arm after such as card is quickly revealed to be as short-sighted an endeavour as it sounds, but it makes for a great exploration of the characters as they come to terms with their past deeds.

Suicide Squad. Vol. 1, The black vault / Williams, Rob
Part of the DC Rebirth initiative and drawn by DC boss Jim Lee, this run of Suicide Squad ties in closer to the then-recent David Ayer film. The team’s first mission sees them trying to break their newest potential recruit out of the ‘The Black Vault’, a secret Russian prison guarded by its own Suicide Squad, the equally dangerous Annihilation Brigade. A alum of Britain’s premier anthology comic 2000 AD, Rob Williams’ writing is a perfect blend of over-the-top action and gallows humour that makes for a great Suicide Squad story.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad / Williamson, Joshua
Sooner or later, the Suicide Squad comes into conflict with the Justice League, who aren’t exactly pleased that the villains they work so hard to put away are out on the streets and being co-opted by the government. One of the better DC Comics crossovers in recent memory (I also rated it in my Justice League recommendations), it’s genuinely impressive that every member of both teams gets a moment to shine, a hard task for a brief series with two massive casts slammed together.

Suicide Squad : bad blood / Taylor, Tom
The most recent Suicide Squad run sees the team behind the smash hit series Injustice: Gods Among Us, writer Tom Taylor and artist Bruno Redondo, take the reins. Once again under new management, the Squad is tasked with defeating and recruiting a team of anarchist superhumans called ‘The Revolutionaries’, allowing the creative team to introduce a slew of new characters to the DCU, any one of whom are bound to be a fan’s new favourite (mine being the out-of-shape speedster Jog and the Indigenous Australian tracker Thylacine).  Taylor’s signature humour and knack for great plot twists and Redondo’s expressive art that defined Injustice make this short run on the series one a must-read.

Be a Mental Organism Designed Only for Comics! Our best picks for comics that inspired the 2021 MCU shows

With 2020 firmly in hindsight, the Marvel Cinematic Universe can continue apace as new films and television series expand the ever-growing stable of characters and worlds. In 2021, we’ve had The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, MODOK, Loki, and the upcoming Black Widow and Eternals. But before these characters hit the small and silver screens, all of their stories came from the comics, which tend to be far wilder and crazier than most cinematic budgets allow.

Did you know that the reason Sam Wilson became Captain America was because Steve Rogers was rapidly aged to be 80 years old? Or that before MODOK became a stop-motion sitcom patriarch, he ran his own Ocean’s Eleven heist crew and built a gun made of mushrooms for SHIELD as a Secret Avenger? Or that the Winter Soldier once went to space and romanced an telepathic alien princess from a planet named after a Japanese noise musician, and fought Loki, who was also fighting a younger version of himself at the time, and went to the moon with Black Widow to shake down a newly omniscient Nick Fury?

Whether you’re a True Believer following your favourite MCU characters or just need something to tide you over before the next series hits, check out our recommendations below. And if you wanted to do the same for WandaVision, you can read Monty’s recommendation blog here.

All-new Captain America [1] : Hydra ascendant / Remender, Rick
All-new Captain America is the first series where Sam Wilson takes on the role of Captain America, combining his winged Falcon suit with a slick new red, white and blue update. Writer Rick Remender uses the opportunity to reintroduce the weirder and pulpier science-fiction enemies that defined the franchise in the 70s and 80s, and Stuart Immonen is one of the best comic artists for style and action, which makes Sam Wilson’s debut as Captain America a high-flying, HYDRA-punching thrill-ride.

Bucky Barnes, the winter soldier. 1, The man on the wall / Kot, Ales
After Nick Fury becomes the Watcher (long story), Bucky Barnes takes over his position as ‘The Man on the Wall’, the only espionage agent protecting Earth from extra-terrestrial threats. Only once he gets to space, Bucky doesn’t find threats, but peace, love, and mind-expanding telepathic conversations with alien princesses. Writer Ales Kot is one of the best at subverting the bleak and world-weary tropes of modern spy fiction, and artist Marco Rudy makes the whole series look like a 50s sci-fi paperback novel cover.

Super-villain team-up : MODOK’s 11 / Van Lente, Fred
Ever wanted to see a heist movie where all the thieves have superpowers? Fred Van Lente and Francis Portela give you the best version of that idea in MODOK’s 11. The titular Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing is ousted from his position as the head of the science-terrorist group AIM, and in revenge, he assembles a team of C-list villains to steal an absurdly powerful energy source from under AIM’s nose. Snappy one-liners, double-crosses, and explosions ensue in the Merry Marvel Manner. The comic also gets a fun reference in the MODOK TV show (although in that version, he can only manage a mere MODOK’s 6).

Secret Avengers [1] : let’s have a problem / Kot, Ales
Run the Mission. Don’t Get Seen. Save the World. This is the credo of the Secret Avengers, a clandestine team made up of the Marvel heroes best suited for spy work. This time however, they’re joined by MODOK, who’s been put to work making weapons for SHIELD in exchange for immunity. Ales Kot and Michael Walsh deliver high-stakes superhero wackiness paired with some surprisingly deep character drama, as MODOK falls in love, sentient bombs are talked out of exploding, and the team confronts their individual traumas through the power of friendship and Argentinian magical realism. If you’ve ever wanted to see Jorge Luis Borges explained by Deadpool, then this is the book for you.

Loki : agent of Asgard [1] : trust me / Ewing, Al
After a stint in the Young Avengers, Loki goes solo and discovers that trying to keep on the straight and narrow is harder than it seems. Especially when you have a) a living lie detector for a friend, b) an older version of yourself hunting you down, and c) your morality flipped so you can only be good, just in the same overly complicated and circuitous way you were when you were bad, so either way no-one trusts you. Created by Lee Garbett and Al Ewing (of Immortal Hulk fame), Agent of Asgard is considered the best modern take on Loki, so if you’re a fan, it’s well worth your time.

Black Widow : the complete collection / Waid, Mark
Writer Mark Waid, artist Chris Samnee and colourist Matt Wilson, who worked together on a critically beloved and fan-favourite run on Daredevil, team up again for this Black Widow miniseries in which the Avenger’s premier spy must go on the run from SHIELD after they declare her an enemy. Featuring some of the best visual action storytelling I’ve ever seen in a comic (Samnee dictated the story more than Waid, a rarity in comics where the writer normally takes the lead) and a creatively versatile use of a sparse colour palette by Wilson, this series is a great primer for Black Widow that will get you psyched for the movie.

The Eternals : monster-size / Kirby, Jack
Kirby’s Eternals revealed an entire new realm of heroes. Once worshipped as gods, this fantastic group left Earth to explore the stars after warring with the Greek, Roman and Norse pantheons for supremacy over humankind. But the Eternals are just one part of a cosmic mythology. Their opposites – the Deviants – also secretly populate Earth, and the towering cosmic entities that created both – the Celestials – are fated to return and judge us all.

Comics in Conversation with Literature: The Immortal Hulk – Part 2

Read Part one in this blog series

The Immortal Hulk is the newest comic to feature Dr Bruce Banner and his green alter ego, and since the series’ debut in 2018, it’s become a massive hit with fans and critics. Written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett, the series centres on a new revelation about the character: Bruce Banner can die but the Hulk cannot, which makes them, as the title suggests, immortal.

Thanks to this undead twist, Ewing and Bennett use the story opportunity to turn Hulk into a horror book. The newly-minted Immortal Hulk battles such terrors as radioactive zombies, paranormal possessions, city-destroying kaiju, the Devil, the legions of Hell, and — my personal favourite — Xemnu the Titan, a cyborg yeti alien who can manipulate people’s memories through smartphones.

The other unique angle to The Immortal Hulk is that every issue opens with a quote from a famous book or writer, chosen by Ewing to give thematic weight to each issue and something for the audience to ponder on a close reading. Below, I’ve picked out some of the best opening quotations from volumes four to six of The Immortal Hulk, and linked them to the works of their respective writers so you can find them in our collection.

If you want to read the comic first, you can order the first volume here or read it on Overdrive here (and check out the previous edition of this blog to read about all the references in the first three volumes). If you’ve read up to volume four, order it here or read it on Overdrive here.


Opening Quotations from The Immortal Hulk

Behold: I cry out of wrong, but I am not heard. I cry aloud, but there is no judgement.

The Book of Job

Catalogue link for The book of Job : a contest of moral imaginations / Newsom, CarolThe Book of Job is one of the most discussed books of the Bible, and also the one most frequently quoted in The Immortal Hulk. In the Book, God tests the faith of a pious man, Job, by robbing him of all his family and possessions, and when Job tries to know why God has punished him, he is only shown how much he doesn’t know. Ewing returns to Job as a motif whenever the Immortal Hulk is being tested, whether it be by shady government black-ops hunting him down, the return of old enemies, or with his own inner turmoil.

Nothing valued is here. What is here is dangerous and repulsive to us. This message is a warning about danger.

Catalogue link for The age of radiance : the epic rise and dramatic fall of the Atomic Era / Nelson, CraigThese phrases aren’t from a work of literature, but from the United States Department of Energy. A growing concern in the organisation is how to warn people in the far future to stay away from nuclear waste disposal sites; these phrases were written to help design pictographs that best symbolise the danger represented by radiation to potentially illiterate future humans. Ewing uses these phrases as opening quotes in the issue where Shadow Base, the government black site hunting the Hulk, create a new version of the classic Hulk foe The Abomination, not knowing the danger they are getting into by creating a Hulk of their own.

I would eat his heart in the marketplace

Catalogue link for Much ado about nothing / Shakespeare, William A running theme in The Immortal Hulk is anger, particularly the double standard invoked when women express it as opposed to men. In issue 19, Bruce Banner’s ex-wife Betty returns as the Red Harpy, a giant crimson bird-woman set on revenge against the Hulk for all the ways he ruined her life. The opening quote of the issue is an expression by Much Ado‘s character Beatrice, wishing that she had a man’s social privilege to publicly hold a man to task for slandering her friend. In Red Harpy’s case, however, she decides to take Beatrice’s metaphor very, very literally…

That stony law I stamp to dust, and scatter religion abroad to the four winds as a torn book, & none shall gather the leaves…

Catalogue link for William Blake, selected poetryIn issue 26, after defeating and taking over Shadow Base, the Hulk decides to use its resources to launch a revolution against the powers-that-be, stating that he wants to ‘end the human world’. His friends and allies, however, are skeptical at whether Hulk’s mission will prove effective. Ewing once more returns to poet and artist William Blake, this time citing a passage from his America: A Prophecy, a book of poetry written about the revelatory potential of the American Revolution.

Such is the condition of organic nature! Whose first law might be expressed in the words, ‘Eat or be eaten!’

Catalogue link for Erasmus Darwin : a life of unequalled achievementIn issue 29, the CEO of the Roxxon corporation sends out a wave of giant monsters to attack Phoenix, Arizona to discredit Bruce Banner and prop up Roxxon’s own Hulk, Xemnu the Titan, as a hero. They are heralded by the above line, a poetic description of nature’s voracity by naturalist Erasmus Darwin (grandfather of Charles) from his book Phytologia. It proves literal too, as one monster eats the Hulk whole, leaving him to fight its car-sized internal parasites.

O’Brien’s looking skittish, but he’ll be fine once his blood’s up. Harryhausen is raring to go. Oh–and they didn’t feed Lovecraft today…

The four giant monsters that attack Phoenix all have codenames referencing Hollywood visual effects artists and horror writers:

Catalogue link: King Kong Catalogue link: Clash of the Titans Catalogue link: The complete fiction of H. P. Lovecraft Catalogue link: The vintage Ray Bradbury

Graphic novels for NZ Music Month

One of my favourite things about the art of comics is how they depict sound. Since the medium is completely mute, comic artists have to come up with novel visual tricks to portray music.

In Ed Piskor’s Hip-Hop Family Tree, the colouring will go into a shaky ‘double-vision’, giving the panel the disorienting effect of looking at a 3D movie without the glasses, to depict the rattling bass of a sound system. In Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Phonogram, music fans called ‘phonomancers’ turn pop songs into magic spells to illustrate (without music) that feeling of power and invincibility you get from listening to your favourite song.

It seems more and more comic artists are going to bat for this technical challenge, as the graphic novel music biopic has become a popular subgenre in the 2010s. Sitting somewhere between documentary and written biography, it allows artists to exaggerate and caricature the details of an artist’s career. Mike Allred’s pop-art inspired drawing style is a perfect match for his most recent work Stardust, rayguns & moonage daydreamswhich gives David Bowie a cosmic career odyssey worthy of the work that he put into building the myth of Ziggy Stardust. Similarly, The Fifth Beatle sees the Fab Four through the eyes of their humble manager Brian Epstein; the comic’s colouring accentuates the efforts Epstein went through to take four lads with the marks of musical greatness from the grey pallor of Liverpool to the bright shiny vistas of international stardom. The graphic novel biography makes bands and artists seem larger than life in a way that photographs or concert films can sometimes struggle to capture.

From the mega-pop stars, to the unsung heroes of music history, to the fans that keep the passion burning, there’s a graphic novel for every audience in our collection!


The complete Phonogram / Gillen, Kieron
“Collected in a single volume for the first time, the first critically beloved work from the creators of The Wicked + the Divine. Includes RUE BRITANNIA, THE SINGLES CLUB and THE IMMATERIAL GIRL, with RUE BRITANNIA coloured for the first time. The world where Music Is Magic has never looked better.” (Catalogue)

Hip hop family tree [2] : 1981-1983 / Piskor, Ed
“The second instalment of this acclaimed graphic novel hip-hop history (originally serialized on the popular website Boingboing) covers the years 1981-1983. Hip Hop has made a big transition from the parks and rec rooms to downtown clubs and vinyl records. The performers make moves to separate themselves from the paying customers by dressing more and more flamboyant until a young group called RUN-DMC comes on the scene to take things back to the streets.” (Adapted from catalogue)

The fifth Beatle : the Brian Epstein story / Tiwary, Vivek J.
“The Fifth Beatle is the untold true story of Brian Epstein, the visionary manager who discovered and guided The Beatles — from their gigs in a tiny cellar in Liverpool to unprecedented international stardom. Yet more than merely the story of “The Man Who Made The Beatles,” The Fifth Beatle is an uplifting, tragic, and ultimately inspirational human story about the struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Brian himself died painfully lonely at the young age of thirty-two, having helped The Beatles prove through “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that pop music could be an inspirational art form. He was homosexual when it was a felony to be so in the United Kingdom, Jewish at a time of anti-Semitism, and from Liverpool when it was considered just a dingy port town.” (Catalogue)

Blue in green / V, Ram
“The dark and haunting portrayal of a young musician’s pursuit of creative genius — the monstrous nature of which threatens to consume him as it did his predecessor half a century ago. From creators Ram V (Grafity’s Wall, These Savage Shores) and Anand RK (Grafity’s Wall). BLUE IN GREEN is an exploration of ambitions, expectations, and the horrific depths of their spiraling pursuit.” (Catalogue)

Bowie : stardust, rayguns & moonage daydreams / Allred, Mike
BOWIE: Stardust, Rayguns, & Moonage Daydreams chronicles the rise of Bowie’s career from obscurity to fame; and paralleled by the rise and fall of his alter ego as well as the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust. As the Spiders from Mars slowly implode, Bowie wrestles with his Ziggy persona. The outcome of this internal conflict will change not only David Bowie, but also, the world.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Gunning for hits. music thriller / Volume 1, Slade : / Rougvie, Jeff
“In the 80’s NYC music business, Martin Mills, a record company talent scout, jumps at the chance to make a comeback album with his favorite rock legend. When it goes sideways, Martin is forced to use deadly skills from his past” (Catalogue)

Redbone : the true story of a Native American rock band / Staebler, Christian
“Brothers Pat and Lolly Vegas were talented Native American rock musicians that took the 1960s Sunset Strip by storm. Determined to control their creative vision and maintain their cultural identity, they eventually signed a deal with Epic Records in 1969. But as the American Indian Movement gained momentum the band took a stand, choosing pride in their ancestry over continued commercial reward. Created in cooperation with the Vegas family, authors Christian Staebler and Sonia Paoloni with artist Thibault Balahy take painstaking steps to ensure the historical accuracy of this important and often overlooked story of America’s past. Part biography and part research journalism, Redbone provides a voice to a people long neglected in American history.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Total jazz / Blutch
“In these freewheeling short stories, vignettes, and sketches that originally appeared in Jazzman magazine, the famed French cartoonist examines not only the genre and its creators but the nature of the subculture. The grumpy festival-goer, the curmudgeonly collector, the anxious auditioner, and many others are his targets. As improvisional as Coltrane and Mingus, Blutch captures the excitement of live performance and of creating and listening to music.” (Catalogue)

Topp : promoter Gary Topp brought us the world / Collier, David
“As with all of Collier’s work, his latest graphic novel is a combination of memoir and biography. This time, he explores his involvement in the cultural landscape of Toronto in the 1970s and 80s, specifically focusing on the life of Gary Topp, a concert promoter and founder of the pioneering Canadian repertory cinema. Topp emerged from an immigrant background, abandoned the family textile business, and became an influential figure in the lives of an entire community. He was also Collier’s first boss and mentor. Though outspoken and opinionated, Gary Topp inspired love and devotion, not only in those who worked for him, but also in the acts he booked — including the Ramones, The Police, and the Dixie Chicks. This graphic novel looks at a rapidly disappearing past and uses Topp’s ability to see beyond the mainstream for a look at where our culture is heading.” (Catalogue)

Comics in Conversation with Cinema: Justice League – The Director’s Cuts (Part 2)

After years of fan campaigning, Zack Snyder’s Justice League has finally arrived on our screens. The newly expanded film restores the initial vision of the auteur director behind 300, Watchmen and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and is loosely based on Justice League: Origin by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.

But there are many Justice League stories worthy of adaptation into film, just as there are many directors who would be perfect to adapt them. Here are another six picks for Justice League comics based on which directors would be best to adapt them into movies. Read the first batch of recommendations here.

The people vs. the Justice League and Justice lost

Suggested director: Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Blackkklansman)

What happens when the Justice League get in the way of real justice? Many writers have tried to do the ‘what if superheroes had to deal with the REAL issues’ story and failed, but in The People vs the Justice League, Christopher Priest and Pete Woods are able to make the real world/superhero world conflict compelling without one side diminishing the other. Featuring a disgruntled fanboy villain, a rival Justice League more interested in community action than punching bad guys, and a parody of Black Panther who uses the League’s downed satellite base to start a war between two African nations, this topical two volume run has plenty of material for a smart, trenchant director like Spike Lee to make into a great movie.

JLA: Trial by Fire

Suggested director: Sam Raimi (Spider-ManThe Evil Dead)

After trying to overcome his fatal weakness to fire, Martian Manhunter accidentally awakens a hostile ancestral personality in himself known as ‘Fernus the Burning Martian’, who wants nothing more than Earth’s total destruction. Trial by Fire, by writer Joe Kelly and artist Doug Mahnke, starts with a demonic possession mystery that spirals out into a world-ending threat, and it rides an interesting middle ground between horror story and superhero epic. That’s why Sam Raimi, director of both great superhero movies and great horror movies, would really make this story sing if he were the one adapting it.

Formerly known as the Justice League

Suggested director: Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, What We Do In The Shadows)

In the late 80s, Justice League was written by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis, and artist Kevin Maguire, who turned the book into a superhero ensemble comedy featuring lesser known heroes like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Elongated Man. Formerly Known as… has that creative team return to the characters (now called the ‘Super Buddies’) who have fallen on hard times and operate out of a strip mall. Taika Waititi is an easy pick for the only explicitly comedic Justice League, but I chose him for this story because he also excels at writing people with high opinions of themselves trying to reclaim their dignity in the face of adversity; think of the aristocratic vampires of What We Do in the Shadows reduced to living in a dilapidated flat or Thor struggling with his self-worth after his hammer is destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok.

JLA: Rock of Ages

Suggested director: Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Interstellar)

Rock of Ages is another blockbuster-size JLA story from Grant Morrison and Howard Porter, in which the JLA face a crisis on two fronts: a corporate takeover-style threat from the Injustice Gang, and trying to prevent a map of all space-time from falling into the hands of the despotic alien Darkseid. Christopher Nolan is a filmmaker obsessed with time: how we fight against it (Dunkirk), what it robs from us (Interstellar), and how we could weaponise it for our benefit (Tenet). Rock of Ages has all the sort of mind-bending space-time headiness Nolan loves to play with, plus it has a lot of good Batman moments as well, so it would be a return to form for him in more ways than one.

Justice League vs. Suicide Squad

Suggested director: The Russo brothers (Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame)

The Russo brothers had the monumental task of bringing ten years of a superhero universe to a conclusion with Infinity War and Endgame, and if fan response and box-office speaks for anything, they succeeded with flying colours. They’re the only duo who would be up to the task to adapt Justice League vs Suicide Squad, which like their previous superhero efforts features a huge and complex story, loads of characters, and centres around a villain pursuing a gem for ultimate power. They might be repeating themselves, but if they did it twice before, then third time is just another charm.

JLA: Heaven’s Ladder

Suggested director: The Wachowski siblings (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas)

One of the weirder stories from the 90s JLA run, Heaven’s Ladder (by Mark Waid and Bryan Hitch) follows the Justice League trying to save Earth after it has been stolen by immortal aliens called ‘Quantum Mechanics’ who want to build their own afterlife using the cultural ideas of Heaven from various alien worlds. It’s a far-out concept, but one that hits on a lot of the shared themes of the films of Lana and Lilly Wachowski, like the fusing of spirituality with science-fiction in The Matrix or the idea of the soul transcending cultural boundaries from Cloud Atlas.

Comics in Conversation with Cinema: Justice League – The Director’s Cuts

After years of fan campaigning, Zack Snyder’s Justice League has finally arrived on our screens. The newly expanded film restores the initial vision of the auteur director behind 300, Watchmen and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and is loosely based on Justice League: Origin by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee.

Snyder certainly had the track record to adapt DC Comics’ premiere super-team to the silver screen, having a number of comic-to-film adaptations under his belt already and a distinct aesthetic directly inspired by comic books. But there are many Justice League stories worthy of adaptation into film (particularly from JLA, the deliberately cinematic and much beloved series that ran from 1997 to 2006), just as there are many directors who would be perfect to adapt them.

So if you’re after more of the World’s Greatest Superheroes (or some great film recommendations), here are my picks for Justice League comics based on what directors would best adapt them into movies.

JLA : New world order – Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012)

When Justice League was relaunched as JLA in 1997 by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter, their intent with the series was to tell big-scale stories like a blockbuster movie in comic form. The first story of their run, New World Order, delivers on exactly that, featuring an invasion by superheroes from another planet that opens with a giant spaceship over the White House (just like Emmerich’s Independence Day, coincidentally released the same year) and continues heightening the stakes from there. If they made a JLA movie in the 90s, you could absolutely see Emmerich as a front-runner for the director’s chair.

Bonus trivia: Every issue of JLA: New World Order is named after a sci-fi movie from the 1950s: THEM!, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, and Invaders from Mars.

JLA : Earth 2 – Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Starship Troopers)

A good version of Lex Luthor recruits the JLA to help him fight the Crime Syndicate of Amerika (not a typo), their evil equivalent from an parallel Earth made of anti-matter, where reality, history and morality is reversed. People’s hearts are on the right side of their body instead of the left, pirates and gangsters are worshipped as heroes, executions are televised, and the dollar bills have “In Mammon We Trust” written on them, referencing the demon of greed. It brings to mind some of Paul Verhoeven’s best satire in Robocop and Starship Troopers, where the excesses of American capitalist and military society are heightened to ludicrous absurdity.

Bonus trivia: JLA: Earth 2 was later adapted into an animated film, Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, in 2010.

Justice –  George Miller (Mad Max, Happy Feet)

Justice hits all the beats of a great Justice League story: big action, great character moments, and deep-cut references from across DC history, but the main conceit of Justice is that the Legion of Doom, convinced that they are saving humanity from a coming apocalypse that the Justice League can’t prevent, become the story’s heroes. While George Miller would be a great choice for any superhero movie for his skill at directing action and tone, what makes Justice an ideal story for him would be the Legion of Doom as a cult of personality believing they know what’s best for society. It’s a theme that Miller has explored throughout his filmography, from the various desert demagogues of the Mad Max wastelands to the conservative penguin hegemony of Happy Feet.

Bonus trivia: In 2007, George Miller was tapped to direct a Justice League movie called Justice League: Mortal, but due to the success of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Warner Bros decided to focus on solo hero movies and the film was shelved indefinitely.

JLA: Golden Perfect – Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman 1984)

After facing a crisis of conscience, Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth is destroyed, and with it, the very concept of truth itself has been fractured — and the Justice League must contend with a world capriciously redefined by the dreams and fears of the human race. When explaining her writing process for WW84, Patty Jenkins said she wanted to write a superhero movie where at the end, nobody dies and the day is saved with a conversation rather than with brute strength. Golden Perfect hits on a lot of similar themes and ideas (WW84‘s Wishing Stone also has a similar effect on the world as the Lasso of Truth breaking), and while she would be repeating herself, it would be interesting to see Jenkins’ take on the rest of the Justice League.

Bonus trivia: Wonder Woman has also appeared in a solo animated film, and appears in the DC Animated Movie Universe beginning with Justice League: War.

Justice League Dark – Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim)

Justice League Dark was created to highlight DC’s stable of magical and horror-influenced heroes such as John Constantine, Zatanna, Swamp Thing, and Deadman, who fight the supernatural threats that the regular flavour Justice League can’t handle. While there was an animated film that came out in 2017, Guillermo Del Toro has been trying to make a live-action Justice League Dark film since 2013. Given his experience in directing fantasy action and surreal horror (the first issue of the series has the Justice League contend with a storm made of human teeth, for starters), giving Del Toro the chance would be a no-brainer.

Bonus trivia: While Del Toro has set aside working on Justice League Dark (for now), a TV series is currently in development for HBO Max, spearheaded by J.J. Abrams.

JLA : the hypothetical woman – Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty, The Hurt Locker)

The Justice League of America is caught in a harrowing situation after being sent by the United Nations Security Council to intervene in a South American nation ruled by an iron-fisted dictator. In response, the world’s nations start stockpiling discarded supervillain weapons and alien spacecrafts and repurposing them into weapons out of fear the Justice League will do the same to them. An underrated Justice League story that weds traditional superhero tropes to the realism of international relations and military strategy, this is probably the only JLA story I could see Kathryn Bigelow adapting.

Bonus trivia: JLA: The Hypothetical Woman is drawn by artist Jose-Luis Garcia Lopez, who is responsible for the DC Comics Style Guide, the official reference guide book for all DC Comics merchandise.

Comics in Conversation with Literature: The Immortal Hulk

The Immortal Hulk is the newest comic to feature Dr Bruce Banner and his green alter ego and since the series’ debut in 2018, it’s become a massive hit with fans and critics. Written by Al Ewing and drawn by Joe Bennett, the series centres on a new revelation about the character: Bruce Banner can die but the Hulk cannot, which makes them, as the title suggests, immortal. Thanks to this undead twist, Ewing and Bennett use the story opportunity to turn Hulk into a horror book, closer in tone to old EC Comics or Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, but with the same action and character drama you’d expect from a Marvel comic. The newly-minted Immortal Hulk battles such terrors as radioactive zombies, paranormal possessions, city-destroying kaiju, the Devil, the legions of Hell, and my personal favourite, Xemnu the Titan, a cyborg yeti alien who can manipulate people’s memories through smartphones.

The other unique angle to The Immortal Hulk is that every issue opens with a quote from a famous book or writer, chosen by Ewing to give thematic weight to each issue and something for the audience to ponder on a close reading. I’ve picked out some of the best opening quotations from the first three volumes of The Immortal Hulk, and linked them to the works of their respective writers so you can find them in our collection. If you want to read the comic first, you can order the first volume here or read it on Overdrive here.

 

 

 

 

 

‘My devil had long been caged, he came out roaring’ – The strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and other stories / Stevenson, Robert Louis

Out of all of the original 60s Marvel heroes, the Incredible Hulk is the only one with a literary pedigree; he was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. The influence of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ on the Hulk is obvious, as they both tell the story of mild-mannered men grappling with a split personality that can physically transform them into a monster. Where the Hulk is usually childlike in his rage, Bruce’s new ‘Immortal Hulk’ personality is significantly more intelligent and menacing than the other Hulks, much like Mr Hyde in the book.

“One always dies too soon – or too late” – No exit, and three other plays / Sartre, Jean-Paul

For the first few issues of Immortal Hulk, Banner only transforms into the Hulk when he dies, and returns to life via a portal called ‘The Green Door’. A consistent theme of the series is how it would affect someone psychologically to come back from the dead, as comic book heroes frequently do. This pairs interestingly with Ewing’s choice to quote No Exit, a play by French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre about three souls who are locked in a room together in the afterlife. For the characters in No Exit, death is a one-way door, whereas for Bruce and the Hulk both, death is a revolving one, a trap for which there too seems to be no exit.

‘Many names hath god given him, names of mystery, secret and terrible’ – Red cactus : the life of Anna Kingsford / Pert, Alan

In interviews, Al Ewing has said that he picked up the idea of the Green Door from the vintage pop song ‘The Green Door‘ and from theosophist writer Anna Kingsford. In her book of her religious visions, Clothed With the Sun, she wrote that the devil, rather than being an adversary for God, works for Him in many roles: a destroyer, an avenger, and as the keeper of the door to Hell who ‘sifts’ souls so that only the wicked enter. Appropriately, the Immortal Hulk takes on the name ‘Devil Hulk’ during a fight with the Avengers, as he tears through them with no effort. But the choice of Kingsford’s quote implies that the Hulk could become a force for good as well, like her conception of the devil.

“Fathers and teachers, I ponder, What is Hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love” – The brothers Karamazov : a novel in four parts and an epilogue / Dostoyevsky, Fyodor

The main villain of the first three volumes is Bruce’s deceased father, Brian Banner, who has struck a deal with the demonic ‘One Below All’ so he can return to Earth. Brian was openly hostile to Bruce throughout his childhood, believing Bruce to be a ‘monster’ who would replace him, and Bruce’s suppressed rage at this treatment eventually coalesced into his Hulk personality. The issue where the Hulk finally confronts his father in Hell opens with the above line from The Brothers Karamazov, which follows three brothers and their respective relationships with their distant, unscrupulous father.

‘Did he who made the Lamb make thee?’ – Songs of innocence and of experience : shewing the two contrary states of the human soul, 1789-1794 / Blake, William

The Romantic poet and artist William Blake is referenced throughout the Immortal Hulk run. The above quote, from his poem ‘The Tyger’ in Songs of Experience, ponders how a creature as fearsome and stunning as a tiger could exist in the same world as an innocent lamb, and considers this a possible contradiction in God’s creation. Like Blake’s interrogation of the tiger, the ‘why?’ of the Hulk’s existence is a recurring question in Immortal Hulk; how could this monster exist within this man? Does he serve some kind of purpose that we’re not aware of? And what will he decide to do with his power?

Comics in Conversation with Comics: Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt

This is Comics in Conversation with Comics, a blog about comics and graphic novels that highlight, challenge, and celebrate the works that came before them, or say something about comics as an art form overall.

Today we look at the recent miniseries Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, written by Kieron Gillen, drawn by Casper Wijngaard, coloured by Mary Safro, and lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.

Originally appearing his self-titled series by publisher Charlton Comics in 1966, Peter Cannon is an orphan raised by Himalayan lamas who trained to peak physical and mental perfection, enabling him to accomplish superhuman feats of strength, speed, and agility. Upon returning to the United States with his friend and confidante Tabu, he dons a red and blue costume and fights crime as ‘Thunderbolt’. While he has only had intermittent appearances since the 60s, Thunderbolt is best known in the comic geek circle as the character who inspired Ozymandias, the Egyptian-themed acrobat hero from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s renowned superhero satire/deconstruction Watchmen. And it is on this rote item of trivia that Gillen and Wijngaard build their story. 

Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt is a comic in conversation with both Watchmen and the books it inspired, for better or worse. While Watchmen is admired today as one of the comics that made readers and critics take comics seriously as a art form and as literature (it did win the Hugo Award, after all), it also inspired several imitators who see the book as the only way to write a superhero story. Each issue explores a different approach to the superhero story, systematically building its case issue by issue through the story of a superman who needs to learn to experience life rather than obsessively study it.

We’ve made a list of the comics referenced in Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt if you want to get the context (and understand the many in-jokes). If you’d rather go in cold and don’t want to be spoiled, you can reserve Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt here.

Analogue Time – Watchmen / Moore, Alan
As Watchmen is the main comic that PC:T is responding to, Gillen and Wijngaard adopt the techniques of the original comic, including the nine-panel page and the use of characters as analogues, a superhero writing trope where a writer creates a separate character to serve as a stand-in or commentary on another character. For instance, Peter Cannon’s teammate Nucleon is an analogue to Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan, who in turn is an analogue for the Charlton Comic hero Captain Atom, all playing on the idea of a nuclear-powered hero. To complete the illusion (or rather, allusion), Safro and Otsmane-Elhaou mimic the colouring and lettering of Watchmen as well.

On Whose Authority? – Absolute Authority. Volume 1 / Ellis, Warren
Issue one is a deliberate homage to the ‘widescreen comics’ popularised by writer Warren Ellis and artist Bryan Hitch in comics like The Authority. In a pre-MCU world where superheroes were only occasionally the focus of movies instead of the dominant genre, ‘widescreen comics’ aimed to be dream blockbuster superhero movies in print form, with wide panels to better resemble a movie screen and short clipped dialogue like an action film. It’s also effective in setting up how superheroes operate in Peter Cannon’s world as efficiently as possible.

I’ve Never Metafiction I Didn’t Like – Animal Man by Grant Morrison. Book one / Morrison, Grant
In issue two, having established that their threat exists in another universe, Peter Cannon transports his team there by turning them into a comic page, in a technique referred to as ‘formalism’ (which in real life is a kind of literary criticism). This nod to metafiction (fiction about fiction) and characters becoming aware of their fictional existence is a regular fascination in comics starting with Grant Morrison and Chas Truog’s Animal Man.

The Blue and the Morally Gray – Civil war / Millar, Mark
It’s in issue three where Peter Cannon and his fellow heroes confront the book’s antagonist, a morally grey supervillain who destroys whole universes to save countless others and calls the heroes out on their lack of perspective. This theme of moral ambiguity and debating the nature of heroism, rather than the clear cut good-versus-evil narrative of most superhero comics, is another holdover from Watchmen that has gone on to influence later superhero comics like Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Civil War.

Pub(lic) Defender – Bacchus. Volume one of two / Campbell, Eddie
Issue four takes a big tonal and artistic swerve, as Peter Cannon finds himself in a universe without superheroes and meets his non-superpowered equivalent, who takes him out to the pub to meet his friends. The art and tone of this section is a specific nod to the works of Eddie Campbell, author of the autobiographical Alec MacGarry comics and god-in-the-mundane-world story Bacchus. By deliberately throwing a superhero into an ordinary world, Gillen and Wijngaard serve to complete Peter Cannon’s arc of recognising that the best inspiration comes not from mimicking other art (in this case, other superhero comics), but from life and the people around you. It’s a somewhat ironic message given what the comic has been up to that point, but it’s one well-earned.

Meet the Team

 

 

 

 


Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt
isn’t the first time Kieron Gillen has written comics about how art affects people. His works with artist Jamie McKelvie, Phonogram and The Wicked + the Divine, explore the relationship people have to music and artists and how both influence you, for better and worse. Casper Wijngaard has recently drawn for the Star Wars Doctor Aphra series. Colourist Mary Safro co-writes and draws the webcomic Drugs and Wires. Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou has lettered for many recent hit comics such as Shanghai Red, and also runs a comic-centric Youtube channel called Strip Panel Naked.

Comics in Conversation with Comics: Dial H for Hero Volume 2

This is the next in our Comics in Conversation with Comics series of posts, in which we explore comics and graphic novels that highlight, challenge, and celebrate the works that came before them, or say something about comics as an art form overall.

In this post we’ll be taking a look at the recent DC Comics series Dial H for Hero, by writer Sam Humphries and artist Joe Quinones.

Dial H for Hero is one of DC Comics’ more obscure series, but it’s a title that has a strong following among comic writers for its seemingly infinite potential. First appearing in House of Mystery #156 in January 1966, the premise centres around the H-Dial, a mysterious rotary phone (ask your parents) that, when H-E-R-O is dialled on it, can transform the caller into a random superhero. 

The 2019 Dial H for Hero series finds the Dial in the hands of two teen runaways, Miguel Montez and Summer Pickens, and this time the dial not only changes them into different comic heroes, but different art styles. These moments are the main draw of the series, referencing famous comics outside of the DC universe such as Dragon Ball, Krazy Kat, Peanuts, Tank Girl, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and paying homage to such celebrated artists like Dan Clowes, Mike Allred, Alex Toth, Rob Liefeld, Moebius and more over the course of the series’ twelve issues.

We’ve listed some of the best comic homages from the second volume, with links to the relevant comics that inspired them if you want to check them out from our collection. You can also jump away now and reserve both volumes of Dial H for Hero if you don’t want to be spoiled on the story.

Continue reading “Comics in Conversation with Comics: Dial H for Hero Volume 2”

It Came From The Archive! A selection of Horror Comic Anthologies for Halloween

Tales from the Crypt. The Vault of Horror. The Haunt of Fear.

In the 40s and 50s, these EC Comics horror anthologies  were the most popular comics titles available, famed for their subversive and bizarre stories and going on to inspire the likes of Stephen King and George Romero. Unfortunately, due to the mid-50s censorship bulwark of the Comics Code Authority, which wouldn’t even allow comic books to have the word horror in their title, let alone depictions of ghouls and vampires, EC and its peers went under. And so, titles like Crypt and Vault were, poetically, buried with them. While superheroes and sci-fi books have dominated the market since then, current comic companies will occasionally dip their toes into bringing back the horror anthology format, or have a one-off annual for the spooky season in the vein of the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror.

Thankfully, the classic EC stories have been saved and recollected in special archive editions, which are now available from our off-site at Te Pataka and our branches. You can also check out other horror anthologies that EC Comics inspired, such as DC’s Flinch and DC Halloween, Marvel’s classic Legion of Monsters stories from the 70s, and Dark Horse’s revival of the Eerie Comics title. Just goes to show that you can’t keep a good idea buried for long!


The EC archives : Shock SuspenStories. Volume 1, issues 1-6
“Featuring the titanic artistic talents of Al Feldstein, Jack Kamen, Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Graham Ingles and Wally Wood – with a foreword by Hollywood legend Steven Spielberg! This beautifully bound hardcover reprints the first six complete issues of the pulp-comic classic Shock SuspenStories. Featuring the titanic artistic talents of Al Feldstein, Jack Kamen, Jack Davis, Joe Orlando, Graham Ingles, and Wally Wood, with a foreword by Steven Spielberg. Includes all the original ads, text pieces, and letters” (Catalogue)

The vault of horror. Volume 1, issues 1-6 / Feldstein, Albert B
“Legendary publisher Bill Gaines provided the forum and creators like Al Feldstein, Johnny Craig, Wally Wood, Harry Harrison, Jack Kamen, Harvey Kurtzman, Graham Ingels, and Jack Davis provided the mayhem.” (Catalogue)

‘Tain’t the meat… it’s the humanity! : and other stories / Davis, Jack
“Presenting the classic EC material in reader-friendly, artist-and-genre-centric packages for the first time, ‘Taint the Meat collects every one of Davis’s 24 Crypt stories in one convenient, gore-drenched package. Mostly written by EC editor Al Feldstein, these stories run the gamut from pure supernatural horror (the werewolf story “Upon Reflection” and the vampire story “Fare Tonight, Followed by Increasing Clottyness…”) to science gone horribly wrong (“Bats in My Belfry “), as well as the classic “disbeliever gets his comeuppance” story (“Grounds… For Horror “) to EC’s bread and butter, the ridiculously grisly revenge-of-the-abused tale (“The Trophy ” and “Well-Cooked Hams “)…”.” (Adapted from catalogue)

The living mummy and other stories / Feldstein, Albert B
“This book collects more than 30 EC horror stories from Mad magazine cartoonist Jack Davis. When Jack Davis took up his pen for EC Comics, he made his innocent victims more eye-poppingly terrified, his ax-murderers more gleefully gruesome, and his vampires and werewolves more bloodthirsty and feral than any other artist. ” (Adapted from catalogue)

Tales from the crypt. Volume 5, issues 41-46
“Dark Horse Comics is proud to bring you more creepily classic Tales from the Crypt Digitally re-colored using Marie Severin’s original colors as a guide, this twisted tome features stories drawn by the unforgettable artistic talents of Jack Davis, George Evans, Jack Kamen, Graham Ingels, Reed Crandall, Bernie Krigstein, Bill Elder, and Joe Orlando” (Catalogue)

Eerie comics 2012-2015.
“Uncle Creepy’s been hogging all the glory in Dark Horse’s revival of Warren’s classic magazines, but here comes Cousin Eerie to nudge him out of the spotlight The terrifying treasury of sinister sci-fi and fearsome fantasy is finally collected in this handsome paperback volume, amassing the inimitable talents of David Lapham, Mike Allred, Jonathan Case, Kelley Jones, and many more. Collecting all new material from the Eerie Comics #1-#8″ (Catalogue)

Flinch. Book one / Azzarello, Brian
“The legendary Vertigo horror anthology that will get under your skin–one slice at a time. It’s the little things in life that matter most: the tiny leak in the fuel line; the faint smell of decay that won’t wash off; the way a knife blade catches the light. These are the things that stick with us, no matter how much we want to forget–the things that make us flinch. No one is more familiar with this unnerving territory than the twisted souls whose hallucinatory work is preserved between these covers–an unprecedented gathering of fever dreams and waking nightmares scraped directly from the darkest corners of the greatest minds in comics.” (Adapted from catalogue)

A very DC Halloween
“All of your favorite DC characters get spooky in this first-ever DC Halloween collection. HEROES MEET HORROR The DC Universe is home to some of the greatest crime-fighters in existence. Your favorite superheroes are usually busy keeping the universe safe, but when Halloween winds blow through the DCU, these heroes are transformed into nightmares. A Very DC Halloween collects 18 eerie tales from DC House of Horror #1 and Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Decades : Marvel in the ’70s : Legion of Monsters
“Celebrate 80 years of Marvel Comics, decade by decade – together with the groovy ghoulies of the Supernatural Seventies. It was an era of black-and-white magazines filled with macabre monsters, and unsettling new titles starring horror-themed “heroes”. Now, thrill to Marvel’s greatest horror icons: The melancholy muck-monster known as the Man-Thing – whosoever knows fear burns at his touch. Morbius, the Living Vampire. Jack Russell, cursed to be a Werewolf-by-Night. And the flame-skulled spirit of vengeance, the Ghost Rider. But what happens when they are forced together to become…the Legion of Monsters? Plus stories starring Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, Manphibian, the vampire-hunter Blade…and never-before-reprinted tales of terror.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Comics in Conversation with Comics: Dial H for Hero Volume One

This is Comics in Conversation with Comics, a blog about comics and graphic novels that highlight, challenge, and celebrate the works that came before them, or say something about comics as an art form overall. This first post looks at the recent DC Comics series Dial H for Hero, by writer Sam Humphries and artist Joe Quinones.

Dial H for Hero is one of DC Comics’ more obscure series, but it’s a title that has a strong following among comic writers for its seemingly infinite potential. First appearing in House of Mystery #156 in January 1966, the premise centers around the H-Dial, a mysterious rotary phone (ask your parents) that, when H-E-R-O is dialed on it, can transform the caller into a random superhero. The 2019 Dial H for Hero series finds the Dial in the hands of two teen runaways, Miguel Montez and Summer Pickens, and this time the dial not only changes them into different comic heroes, but different art styles. These moments are the main draw of the series, referencing famous comics outside of the DC universe such as Dragon Ball, Krazy Kat, Peanuts, Tank Girl, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and paying homage to such celebrated artists like Dan Clowes, Mike Allred, Alex Toth, Rob Liefeld, Moebius and more over the course of the series’ twelve issues.

We’ve listed some of the best comic homages from the first volume, with links to the relevant comics that inspired them if you want to check them out from our collection. You can also reserve volumes one and two of Dial H for Hero here and here if you don’t want to be spoiled on the story.

Manga on Manga

In issue 2 of Dial H for Hero, Miguel and an rival fight for the dial in the forms of Jobu, the Zonkey King and Iron Deadhead. These two heroes are references to two mangas, Akira Toriyama’s Goku from Dragon Ball and the cyborg protagonists of Masamune Shirow’s mangas like Ghost in the Shell, respectively. As the two heroes clash, so do the art styles, with Jobu’s simple colours and comedic tone contrasting with Iron Deadhead’s more serious, cyberpunk look drawn in black and white.

Dragonball. 3-in-1 edition. 1 / Toriyama, Akira

Ghost in the shell / Shirow, Masamune

 

 

 

Getting Vertigo

Vertigo (and its 2010s successor, Young Animal) was DC Comic’s imprint (a minor publishing line) for mature comics that gave their writers more creative freedom to reinterpret classic characters, including The Sandman, Doom Patrol, and Shade the Changing Man. While Vertigo is acclaimed for elevating comics into the realm of serious literature, these titles are also known to dip into ‘purple prose’ and extremely post-modern styles of narrative, which could alienate a more casual reader. This aspect gets a send-up in chapter 3 of Dial H for Hero in the form of the Bluebird of Happiness, a manic-pixie psychedelic superwoman resembling The Sandman‘s Delirium who warps the comic’s page structure around her.

The Sandman : endless nights / Gaiman, Neil

Shade, the changing girl. Vol. 1, Earth girl made easy / Castellucci, Cecil

 

 

Moebius Strip

To fight a bunch of out-of-control Justice League robots in issue 4, museum curator Snapper Carr transforms into Alien Ice Cream Man, a costumed space adventurer poking fun at the way French comic artist Moebius would draw his space-travelling characters with big pointy hats. Miguel, meanwhile, becomes Lil’ Miguelito, a fusion of various newspaper comic strip characters including Charlie Brown, Hagar the Horrible, and Nancy.

Inside Moebius. Part 1 / Moebius

Nancy likes Christmas / Bushmiller, Ernie

 

 

 

Fight like a (Tank) Girl

Main character Summer Picken’s go-to hero transformation is Lo-Lo Kick You, a live-wire ‘riot grrrl’ hero inspired by the art of Tank Girl creator (and Gorillaz artist) Jamie Hewlett and the pop art style of Mike Allred’s Madman. Summer’s adherence to only turning into one character throughout the series (whereas the dial normally changes you in random heroes) indicates her strong sense of self-identity. It’s befitting, then, that her transformation pays homage to two of the most visually distinct and idiosyncratic artists of the 1990s.

Tank Girl : the odyssey / Milligan, Peter

Madman. Volume 1 / Allred, Mike

 

 

 

Comic-ception

Issue 6 has a double-page spread that looks like a comic overlayed on top of another comic, allowing two narratives to play out simultaneously across the same page space. The ‘outer’ comic is a shot-for-shot remake of the storyboards for the Batman: The Animated Series opening by Bruce Timm, while the overlayed ‘inner’ comic detailing Miguel’s crisis is done in the style of black-and-white indie comics like Love and Rockets by the Hernandez brothers.

Heartbreak soup : a Love and rockets book / Hernandez, Gilbert

The Batman adventures : mad love / Dini, Paul

 

 

Hero Complex

In issue 6, the villain Mr. Thunderbolt gives everyone in the city of Metropolis a superhero identity and powers, with every individual character having their own art style riffing on another comic artist. Some of the allusions I was able to spot were: a character based on artist Frank Quitely’s ‘hyper-real’ art style, a few referencing early 60s Marvel comics by artists Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, and characters based on the recent designs of Squirrel Girl by Erica Henderson and Silk by Stacey Lee.

L to R: All-Star Superman   Spider-Man meets the Marvel universe  The unbeatable Squirrel Girl  Silk

 

 

 

 

 

And that covers volume one! Stay tuned for Part Two, where we cover the homages in Dial H for Hero Volume Two.

The Four-Colour Final Frontier: Comics for World Space Week

Ever since 1929, when Buck Rogers left the written pulp magazines for the four-colour newspaper comic strip, comics have provided the perfect canvas for stories about space travel and other planets.

While the terror of little green men and mysterious alien jungles of the 50s and 60s eventually fell away due to Sputnik, Voyager, and the Mars rovers, writers and artists found new storytelling opportunities in the vastness of space in the modern day, whether they be conscious genre throwbacks like Mark Millar and Goran Parlov’s Flash Gordon pastiche Starlight, first contact political thrillers like Letter 44, or melancholic examinations of living on other worlds like Tom Gauld’s Mooncop.

And while Space Week may only last seven days, it’s always a good time to revisit the classic Tintin duology, Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon as well!


Destination moon / Hergé
“Destination Moon (1953) gives a detailed account on the preparation and the launching of the expedition to the Moon for which Professor Calculus has chosen Syladavian soil. Tintin and Captain Haddock are amazed to find that Professor Calculus is planning a top-secret project from the Sprodj Atomic Research Centre in Syldavia. And before our intrepid hero knows it, the next stop on this adventure is …Space.” (Catalogue)

Saga. Compendium one / Vaughan, Brian K
“Containing the first nine volumes of the acclaimed, New York Times-bestselling series, this compendium tells the entire story of a girl named Hazel and her star-crossed parents. Features gorgeous full-color artwork, including a new cover from Eisner-winning co-creator Staples. Collects #1-54.” (Catalogue)

Starlight : the return of Duke McQueen / Millar, Mark
“Forty years ago, Duke McQueen saved an alien world from destruction. Back on earth, nobody believed his story. Now his kids are grown, his wife has passed on, and life has little to offer. Until the day a strange boy from the world he once saved makes an appearance, coaxing Duke to join him on one last adventure. Can Duke handle the leap from has-been to hero? Collects Starlight #1-6.” (Adapted from catalogue)

Letter 44. Volume I, Escape velocity / Soule, Charles
“On Inauguration Day, newly elected President Stephen Blades hoped to tackle the most critical issues facing the nation: war, the economy, and a failing health care system. But in a letter penned by the outgoing President, Blades learns the truth that redefines “critical”: seven years ago, NASA discovered alien presence in the asteroid belt, and kept it a secret from the world. A stealth mission crewed by nine astronauts was sent to make contact, and they’re getting close-assuming they survive the long journey to reach their destination. Today, President-elect Blades has become the most powerful man on the planet. This planet.” (Catalogue)

Mooncop / Gauld, Tom
Living on the moon . . . Whatever were we thinking? . . . It seems so silly now.” The lunar colony is slowly winding down, like a small town circumvented by a new super highway. As our hero, the Mooncop, makes his daily rounds, his beat grows ever smaller, the population dwindles. A young girl runs away, a dog breaks off his leash, an automaton wanders off from the Museum of the Moon. Mooncop is equal parts funny and melancholy. capturing essential truths about humanity and making this a story of the past, present, and future, all in one.” (Adapted from catalogue)

The Manhattan Projects. 1 / Hickman, Jonathan
“What if the research and development department created to produce the first atomic bomb was a front for a series of other, more unusual, programs?” (Catalogue)

Image Comics: The Best of a Decade of Creator-Owned Books

Unique among publishers for allowing writers and artists to keep the rights to their work, Image Comics has been a haven for teams of comic writers and artists to do their boldest, strangest and most experimental comics, working in genres outside of the usual superhero fare like horror, crime, western, urban fantasy, and science-fiction.

The works recommended below have met commercial and critical acclaim; the biggest hits for the company being the massive multimedia hit The Walking Dead and the populist sci-fi epic Saga, while others are beloved by their own dedicated fandoms, like The Wicked + The Divine. A number of long-running Image Comics series wrapped up in 2019, and with the opening of Te Awe and our off-site collections, it’s never been a better time to catch up on some of the best comics of the past ten years.

The Walking Dead
The walking dead : compendium one / Kirkman, Robert
Though it began in 2003, the post-apocalyptic zombie comic by writer Robert Kirkman and artists Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard continued to be a hit all through the last decade, and was one of Image Comics longest running series, eventually spawning a hit television series in 2010. The comic unexpectedly wrapped up at issue #193 in July 2019, a rare shock in the modern comic industry where each issue is planned and advertised months in advance. Pick up the compendium collecting the first 48 issues at the link above or grab the first volume here.

If you liked The Walking Dead, check out this: Invincible, Robert Kirkman’s other long-spanning superhero series for Image, also wrapped up in 2018. You begin the whole series with the first Ultimate Collection here.

Saga
Saga. Compendium one / Vaughan, Brian K
Frequently cited as the comic book that got people into comics, Saga follows Alana and Marko, two soldiers on the opposing sides of a space war who decide to marry and raise a child together. They hop from planet to planet, trying to find a spot of peace while dodging bounty hunters, sentient planets, and their own in-laws. Written by Brian K Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, Saga went on a hiatus in 2018 after hitting the midpoint of its story in issue #54, so now is the perfect time to catch up. Pick up the compendium with the whole series to date at the link above, or grab the first volume here.

If you liked Saga, check out this: Image Comics has become a haven for science fiction comics in the 2010s, including the Hugo-nominated Bitch Planet, Invisible Kingdom by the creator of Ms Marvel, gender-flipped mythological space epic ODY-C, the watercolour-painted robot adventure Descender, and the dimension-hopping Black Science, to name a few.

Other Image books by Brian K. Vaughan include the Hugo-nominated Paper Girls with Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson, about a quartet of paper girls from the 1980s who travel through time, and We Stand on Guard with Steve Scroce and Matt Hollingsworth, which depicts a war in the future between Canada and the USA.

The Wicked + The Divine
The wicked + the divine. Vol. 1, The Faust act / Gillen, Kieron
Every 90 years, twelve gods return to Earth to inspire humankind and gain followers, only to die after two years. In 2014, this ‘Pantheon’ of gods return as popstars. The Wicked + The Divine (or WicDiv to its fans) follows Pantheon super-fan Laura as she becomes embroiled in the god’s inner conflicts and tries to attain godhood for herself. Coming to a close with issue #45 in September 2019, The Wicked + The Divine has been praised for its nuanced portrayals of LGBTQ+ characters and its themes on fame, death, history, religion, and the purpose of artists.

If you liked WicDiv, check out this: Gillen and McKelvie’s foray at Image Comics begins with Phonogram, set in a world where ‘music is magic’ that explores similar themes to The Wicked + The Divine. You can read the complete collection here.

Gillen has recently started a new series, DIE, with artist Stephanie Hans, about a group of adult tabletop RPG fans being forced to return to the game they were trapped in as teenagers, Jumanji-style. Reserve the first volume here.

East of West
East of West [1] / Hickman, Jonathan
Written by Johnathan Hickman and drawn by Nick Dragotta and Frank Martin, East of West is an alternate history that marries the political intrigue of Game of Thrones with the “slap leather” cowboy action of the Dollars trilogy, set in a futuristic United States of America. In this world, there are only seven states existing in an uneasy peace. Unbeknownst to their citizens, the leaders from each state secretly meet in neutral territory to try and bring about the end of the world. Meanwhile, three horsemen of the Apocalypse roam the land, seeking the son of their missing horseman, Death.

If you liked East of West, check out this: For another Hickman-penned alternate history, there’s the The Manhattan Projects, which reimagines the real scientists who helped build the atomic bomb as amoral dimension-travelling jerks in the vein of Rick Sanchez. Start with the first volume here.

Fatale
Fatale. Book one, Death chases me / Brubaker, Ed
Writer and artist team Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips have been doing crime comics together for years, transferring dime store pulp stories to the world of comics, while also updating, humanising and deconstructing the character archetypes and tropes for a modern genre-savvy audience. After the success of their Icon Comics series Criminal, Brubaker and Phillips began their first Image Comics series Fatale in 2012, featuring a supernatural take on the ‘femme fatale’ archetype. Lasting 24 issues, the series was collected in five volumes, the first of which you can read at the link above.

If you liked Fatale, check out this: Criminal is the series that really put Brubaker and Phillips on the map; each volume is a self-contained crime story from the perspective of different characters within one city, making it incredibly accessible. My particular favourite is Last of the Innocent, which puts the classic Archie Comics characters into a lurid murder mystery, six years before Riverdale did it on television.

Chew
Chew : the omnivore edition. Vol. I / Layman, John
In a world where the FDA is granted greater judicial powers following a deadly bird flu, detective Tony Chu is brought in to crack down on illegal chicken dealers. Fortunately, he has one advantage that his fellow investigators lack; he’s a cibopath, a kind of food psychic who can gain mental impressions from anything that he eats. Written by John Layman and drawn with cartoony panache by Rob Guillory, you can take a big bite out of Chew with the first ‘Omnivore Edition’ (collecting the first ten issues) at the link above.

If you liked Chew, check out this: Chew’s artist Rob Guillory recently started a new comedy-horror series called Farmhand, which follows a family who grows replacement human body parts on their farm.

We also have the first two volumes of writer John Layman’s newest haunted space adventure series Outer Darkness with artist Afu Chan.

The 2020 Hugo nominees for Best Graphic Story

Since 2009, the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story has been given to comics, graphic novels and other illustrated works that best exemplify the possibilities of speculative fiction and the comics medium, and we have all six of the 2020 nominees available for you to catch up with!

The nominations are a stacked field this year. The final volumes of two beloved long-running Image Comics series, The Wicked + The Divine and Paper Girls, were nominated this year, the last chance for either creative team to get the award (Paper Girls having been nominated a previous four times!). Three-time Best Graphic Story Hugo winner Monstress has also been nominated for its fourth volume. But those three veteran series face some strong contenders in new books like the fantasy deconstruction DIE, witchy love story Mooncakes, and the sci-fi immigration tale LaGuardia by previous Hugo winner Nnedi Okorafor.

Who will win the Hugo? We won’t know until the award ceremony on August 1st, but till then, you can catch up on the nominated books below!

Die, Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreaker, by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image)

Die. Volume 1, Fantasy heartbreaker / Gillen, Kieron
Pitched as “Jumanji meets Stephen King’s IT”, DIE follows five embittered adults returning the fantasy world they were trapped in as teenagers to rescue their friend who stayed there, only to find he’s gone native and is subjecting them to a deadly adventure campaign. Gillen, a former game journalist, wrote DIE to both critique and celebrate tabletop games and the fantasy genre overall, while Stephanie Hans renders the imaginary worlds of DIE with lush, dream-like detail. This is Hans’ first Hugo nomination, and Gillen is also nominated against himself this year for The Wicked + The Divine. Will DIE roll a nat 20 for the critical win?

Related Reading

DIE Volume 2. Split The Party — If you’re hooked on DIE after the first volume, check out the second volume ‘Split the Party’.

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 3. Commercial Suicide —  Stephanie Hans has also worked with Kieron Gillen on a issue of his series The Wicked + The Divine, collected in this volume.

The Adventure Zone Volume 1. Here there be gerblins — If you’re after more comics about Dungeons and Dragons, check out the first comic adaptation of the beloved roleplaying podcast ‘The Adventure Zone’.

LaGuardia, written by Nnedi Okorafor, art by Tana Ford, colours by James Devlin (Berger Books; Dark Horse)

LaGuardia : a very modern story of immigration / Okorafor, Nnedi
In a world where extraterrestrials regularly emigrate to Earth, a controversial travel ban goes into effect in America and separates a Nigerian-American couple who are expecting their first child. LaGuardia is a refreshingly sensitive science-fiction take on immigration and citizenship; Nnedi Okorafor has thought out every aspect of this all-too-familar sci-fi Earth, and Ford and Devlin depict the world and characters in lovingly dense detail, particularly with the alien designs. This is Ford and Devlin’s first nomination, while Okorafor has already won a Hugo for her novella Binti. Can LaGuardia net Okorafor her second Hugo win?

Related Reading

Black Panther: Long Live the King — Okorafor and Ford also worked together on this Black Panther series for Marvel Comics.

Binti — Check out Okorafor’s Hugo-winning series Binti here or on Overdrive.

The Green Lantern Vol 1. Intergalactic Lawman — This sharp new take on the Green Lantern character sees him as an intergalactic beat cop, where even ordinary crimes happen on intergalactic scales.

Monstress, Volume 4: The Chosen, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda (Image)

Monstress. Volume four, The chosen / Liu, Marjorie M
A fusion of a war diary, a horror manga, and young adult fantasy, Monstress has been a critical and fan-favourite since it began in 2016. Set in a war-torn land inspired by 20th century Asia, Monstress follows the adventures of Maika Halfwolf, a magical ‘Arcanic’ who is hunted by an order of sorceresses who use her species as magical fuel for their spells. Every volume of Monstress has won the Hugo for Best Graphic Story for the past three years running. Will Volume 4 continue Liu and Takeda’s winning streak?

Related Reading

Monstress Volume 1. Awakening — Start reading Monstress from the beginning with the first volume here, or for download it on Overdrive.

The iron hunt — The first book in Marjorie Liu’s urban fantasy series Hunter Kiss, which follows a demon hunter trying to rescue her beloved from a bloodthirsty army.

Calamity Kate — In an urban fantasy world, a monster hunter moves to LA to find the ultimate bounty: the Seven Fabled Beasts of Yore.

Mooncakes, by Wendy Xu and Suzanne Walker, letters by Joamette Gil (Oni Press; Lion Forge)

Mooncakes / Walker, Suzanne
Young witch Nova and her werewolf friend Tam have reunited after ten years apart, but their reunion brings forth struggles both mundane and magical, including family conflicts, maturing to face new responsibilities, and battling weird horse demons. Originally a webcomic, Mooncakes was published as a a graphic novel by Lion Forge in 2019, earning praise for centering on the romance of its queer Chinese-American protagonists. This is Walker, Gil and Xu’s first Hugo nomination; could Mooncakes cast a spell on the Hugo judges?

Related Reading

For more young adult comics about witches, check out:

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Spell on Wheels by Kate Leth and Megan Levens.

Paper Girls, Volume 6, written by Brian K. Vaughan, drawn by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher (Image)

Paper Girls. 6 / Vaughan, Brian K
Four paper girls in the 1980s get embroiled in a war between rival factions of time travellers, facing cavemen, mutants, pterodactyls, robots, and their own future selves as they attempts to find a way home. Recently concluding after 30 issues and this sixth collection, Paper Girls has been nominated four times for the Graphic Story Hugo. Will the last volume finally deliver a win for its creative team?

 

Related Reading

Paper Girls Volume 1  — Start Paper Girls from the beginning here or for download on Overdrive

Wonder Woman Volume 1: Blood — Check out the Paper Girls art team’s (Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson) recent work on Wonder Woman here, or download it on Overdrive.

Saga Volume 1 — Writer Brian K Vaughan won the Best Graphic Story Hugo for Saga‘s first volume in 2013.

The Wicked + The Divine, Volume 9: “Okay”, by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Clayton Cowles (Image)

The wicked + the divine. Vol. 9, “Okay” / Gillen, Kieron
Every 90 years, twelve gods return to Earth in the form of teenagers to inspire humankind and gain followers, only to die after two years. In 2014, this ‘Pantheon’ of gods return as popstars. The Wicked + The Divine (or WicDiv to its fans) follows Pantheon super-fan Laura as she becomes embroiled in the god’s inner conflicts and tries to attain godhood for herself. Long-time comic collaborators Gillen, McKelvie, Wilson, and Cowles conclude the long-running series in this final volume, which has been a commercial and critical hit for its resonant themes on fame, death, religion, art, and artists. Volume 9 of the Wicked + The Divine is Jamie McKelvie’s first Hugo nomination and Gillen’s second with DIE, also nominated this year. Will this final offering be enough to sway the Hugos in their favour?

Related Reading

The Wicked + The Divine Volume 1. The Faust Act Start WicDiv from the beginning here or for download the first volume on Overdrive.

Young Avengers Volume 1. Style > substance  See how the WicDiv team first got together on the second iteration of Marvel’s teen superteam, the Young Avengers.

God complex: Dogma. Volume one — Another modern comic book take on the gods of antiquity, this cyberpunk thriller sees a forensic investigator meeting the god-like beings that secretly run the world.

#StayAtHome Film Festival: Gus’ Picks for Weird & Thrilling Films

One of my favourite things to do on my Friday shift at the library is to pick through the DVDs before closing time and grab a film I’ve been meaning to see but have never had the time to check out before. While I can’t stroll through the aisles of Arapaki for the time being, exploring Kanopy and Beamafilm has been scratching that itch for me.

As someone who’s always learning more about the history of film-making and storytelling, I tend to gravitate toward strange, high-concept films and subjects; legacy directors who gained and spent multiple ‘blank checks’ over their careers to make their passion projects, festival films with off-kilter premises that become critical darlings, and weird thrillers that expand what kind of stories you can tell on a budget. These recommendations might not be what you would call ‘comfort viewing’, but I hope they can expand your film-viewing horizons as they have mine. Enjoy!


Swiss Army Man

Year: 2016
Length: 98 mins
Directors: Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert

Watch the full film here!

A critical darling at Sundance the year of its release, Swiss Army Man follows Hank (Paul Dano) as a man trying to get back to civilization with the aid of a talking, farting corpse named Manny (Daniel Radcliffe). It’s every bit as weird as it sounds, but Dano and Radcliffe’s performances buoy the film as the friendship blossoms between the two men and they help one another discover how to be human again, although it applies to one of them a bit more literally. The physical comedy is also a treat to watch, as Radcliffe forgoes the use of a dummy to do all of the corpse’s stiff, action-figure-like stunts himself. It’s a charming, bizarre, and surprisingly moving movie about how to come back from a period of self-isolation, make lasting connections with people, and rediscover how to live in the world again.

Discover more:

PressReader and RBdigital: If watching Hank and Manny’s trek through the California pines has you missing the joys of trekking the wilderness, both PressReader and RBdigital provide online access to hundreds of magazines including many on mountaineering, tramping, and more.

Overdrive: You’ll never have a better excuse to reread the series that gave Daniel Radcliffe his first big acting break; that’s why Overdrive has made the first Harry Potter book available for free in both ebook and audiobook form in multiple languages.


Enemy

Year: 2013
Length: 91 mins
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Watch the full film here!

Director Denis Villeneuve is more associated with his recent expansive science-fiction films such as Arrival, Blade Runner 2049 and the upcoming Dune adaptation, but there was a time where he worked on smaller thrillers, including the critically-beloved but little-seen film Enemy. Based off the novel The Double by José Saramago, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam Bell, a history professor who discovers an actor in a local film that appears to be his exact double. His actor doppelganger soon discovers Adam as well, as do each of the men’s wives. As their lives begin to intertwine, each one threatens to undo the existence of the other until the film crescendos into one of the freakiest endings to a movie I’ve ever seen.

Discover More:

Kanopy: Can’t get enough of Gyllenhaal? Kanopy also has his early hit Donnie Darko in both the theatrical and director’s cut.

Overdrive: Want to see what inspired Enemy? You can check out the works of Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese writer José Saramago on Overdrive.


Shin Godzilla (Shin Gojira)

Year: 2016
Length: 120 mins
Director: Hideaki Anno

Watch the full film here!

Taking a break from the reboot of his groundbreaking giant robot series Neon Genesis Evangelion, director Hideaki Anno revitalizes the Godzilla brand with Shin Godzilla, taking a more esoteric, body-horror approach to the classic kaiju (‘strange beast’). A huge hit in Japan and winner of seven Japanese Academy Prize awards, many Godzilla fans hold this as one of the best of the series. If you need to convince your housemates who aren’t as versed in genre films to check this out, the interesting twist to this iteration is that the human focus is on the government officials trying to react in real-time to Godzilla’s sudden appearance, rather than the military or a lone hero. What better film to watch now than one about a bureaucracy responding to a sudden evolving threat and using clever infrastructure solutions to mitigate harm and protect their citizens? These days, that’s a story I can get behind.

Discover More:

Kanopy: Kanopy has a range of cinema from Japan, including “ramen western” Tampopo, Studio Ghibli co-production The Red Turtle, and Tokyo Story (Tokyo monogotari), widely considered to be one of the best films ever made.

Beamafilm: Beamafilm offerings of Japanese cinema include Studio Ghibli documentary The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness and the art documentary Kusama: Infinity, which chronicles the work of Yayoi Kusama.


Good Time

Year: 2017
Length: 102 mins
Directors: Benny and Josh Safdie

Watch the full film here!

If you’ve seen and loved the Safdie brothers’ newest film Uncut Gems, it’s well worth your time to check out Good Time, their previous film from 2017. Robert Pattinson plays Constantine, a small-time crook who has to break his brother out of prison while avoiding the police and struggling to pay off a bail bondsman after a bank heist gone wrong. Flat-out from minute one, Constantine races the underbelly of New York City, churning through one unsuspecting ally after another in his desperate quest to reunite with the only family he has left. Robert Pattinson brings a raw and pitiable emotional depth to Constantine, and the Safdie brothers’ trademark use of first-time actors gives their version of New York a rough and lived-in feel.

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Kanopy: Eager for more crime thrillers? Kanopy has you covered. Check out one of the genre’s classics, Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, or Joaquin Phoenix’s recent hit You Were Never Really Here.


Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World

Year: 2016
Length: 99 mins
Director: Werner Herzog

Watch the full film here!

Werner Herzog is a director I’ve always wanted to check out but was only familiar with from terrible impersonations and his surprisingly frequent cameos in primetime cartoons. Lo and Behold is a great contemporary introduction to one of cinema’s most celebrated directorial voices (and what a voice!), following Herzog’s attempt to examine the history of the Internet, from its humble origins in American university campuses to its future potential for self-awareness. Herzog tracks down original Internet Protocol engineer Robert Kahn, hacker Kevin Mitnick, and a community of people in rehab for ‘internet addiction’, among others, to examine the transformative power the Internet affords us a species, while also looking at its precarity as a construct and how our reliance on it can be socially damaging. As more and more of us have to rely on streaming, social media and web conferencing to get by, Herzog invites us to consider just how valuable the internet is to us.

Discover More:

Kanopy: Kanopy has more of Herzog’s most recent works, including crime thriller Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, the Gertrude Bell biography Queen of the Desert, and the environmental thriller Salt and Fire.

PressReader and RBdigital: You can keep up with the latest science and technology news and magazines like New Scientist with both PressReader and RBdigital.


Exit Through the Gift Shop

Year: 2010
Length: 83 mins
Director: Banksy

Watch the full film here!

Cast your mind back to 2010, the heyday of street artists who turned the world into their canvas with their bold and politically loaded art and began to find mainstream success in gallery shows. A typical biopic this is not; Exit Through the Gift Shop follows not Banksy himself, but his filmmaker friend turned disciple Thierry Guetta, who first becomes embroiled in the street art community as a documentarian before deciding to become a street artist himself. Complicating matters is the long-standing accusation that this film was made as a hoax, as Thierry’s rocketing to success as a street artist can come off to some as too staged and polished for a real-life subject, a claim that has been repeatedly denied by the film-makers. Regardless of its veracity, after rewatching this in lockdown, I’m never going to take the streets for granted again.

Discover More:

Kanopy: Eager to learn more about street art? Kanopy recently added a new documentary chronicling the movement’s history, Banksy and the Rise of Outlaw Art.

PressReader and RBdigital: Both Pressreader and RBdigital provide online access to hundreds of magazines including many on art, illustration, photography and more.

A Halloween graphic novel for every type of horror fan

“I am a horror maniac who prefers to stay at home.”
― Junji Ito, writer of Uzumaki

If you’re a discerning horror fanatic, you know it can be difficult to find a story that scratches your particular genre itch; after all, those that scare easily don’t always scare equally. That’s why we’ve put together this list of recent horror graphic novels to help you feed your particular horror obsession (or maybe help you start a new one).

Are you into monsters? Then check out the new Swamp Thing collection Roots of Horror featuring the best of DC’s writers and artists, or The Immortal Hulk, featuring a new undead twist on Marvel’s Green Goliath.

Do your interests lean more toward folk horror? Try webcomic artist Emily Carroll’s collection of Brothers Grimm-style horror tales Through the Woods, or Hellboy: The Wild Hunt, which inspired the 2019 Hellboy film.

Like your horror incomprehensible and weird? Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham’s ultimate haunted-house-in-space comic Nameless, or Uzumaki from horror manga artist Junji Ito — where singular obsessions lead a small town to ruin — might have what you’re after.

Swamp Thing : roots of terror : the deluxe edition / King, Tom
“On Halloween, the barrier between world’s grows thin–and only the Swamp Thing is strong enough to face the monsters that come from the other side. In addition, this book also features the final Swamp Thing story from the monster’s co-creator, Len Wein. Originally intended as the start of a new series, presented here with art by Kelley Jones. Collects Swamp Thing: Winter Special #1 and stories from Swamp Thing: Halloween Giant, Cursed Comics Cavalcade #1, and Young Monsters in Love #1″ (Catalogue)

Uzumaki : spiral into horror / Itō, Junji
“Kurôzu-cho, a small fogbound town on the coast of Japan, is cursed. According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the world. It manifests itself in everything from seashells and whirlpools in water to the spiral marks on people’s bodies. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurôzu-cho are pulled ever deeper into a whirlpool from which there is no return!” (Catalogue)

The immortal Hulk. Vol. 1, Or is he both? / Ewing, Al
“You know Bruce Banner. He’s quiet, calm, never complains. He’s a man who believes he can use the darkest elements of his personality to do good in the world. If someone were to shoot him in the head… All he’d do is die. But the horror lives deeper. A horror that refuses to die. When night falls something other than the man gets up again. The horror is the Immortal Hulk.” (Catalogue)

Hellboy : the wild hunt / Mignola, Michael
“The inspiration for the new film from director Neil Marshall and starring Strangers Things’s David Harbour. Hellboy is called to England to take part in an ancient ritual of hunting giants, but quickly faces a much more dangerous enemy: Nimue, the Queen of Blood, who has risen with plans to create a monstrous army.”  (Adapted from catalogue

Through the woods / Carroll, Emily
“A collection of five spine-tingling short stories”– Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there. A fantastically dark and timeless graphic debut, for fans of ‘Grimm Tales’, ‘The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy’ and the works of Neil Gaiman.” (Catalogue)

Nameless / Morrison, Grant
“With the asteroid Xibalba on a collision course with Earth, a group of billionaire futurists recruits the occult hustler Nameless for a mission to save the world.” (Catalogue)