Welcome to Best of 7, where we talk about “The best in comics from the last seven days” — which could be anything from an exciting piece of news to a cool publisher’s announcement to an awesome comic that came out. So get ready to fly really, really fast as we reverse the Earth’s orbit and head back for a look at the last seven days in comics …
Comics can keep their late-night spotlight
As news of David Letterman’s retirement developed into news that Stephen Colbert would succeed him, it may be worth remembering that both have been occasional boosters of the sequential arts. American Splendor creator Harvey Pekar was a frequent Letterman guest in the late 1980s and early ’90s (including four appearances in 1987), and naturally those appearances were memorialized in comics form. Letterman also hosted Cathy Guiseweite (in 1992) and Matt Groening (in 1989 and ’90, when The Simpsons was getting started). Colbert has taken a different approach, establishing himself more clearly as a comics fan. Captain America’s shield (“willed” to Colbert upon the character’s apparent death in 2007) hangs prominently on the set of The Colbert Report, and Colbert makes frequent references to comic-book characters, including comparing himself to Superman and commenting on the newest Ms. Marvel.
Moreover, while Letterman has been a comic-book character (also seen in Avengers #239 and as “David Endochrine” in The Dark Knight Returns), Colbert’s creation Tek Jansen was adapted into a five-part miniseries from Oni Press.
All of this may be continuing evidence of the apparent triumph of nerd culture. For example, The Daily Show tosses out superhero and Star Wars references all the time, and Conan O’Brien is headed to next year’s Comic-Con. Besides, Colbert is also a huge Tolkien fan — which reminds me, he once asked Ian McKellen whether Gandalf could beat Magneto — so hobbits and orcs are arguably more likely to show up on The Late Show than, say, Scott Snyder or G. Willow Wilson is. Still, Colbert’s comics cred extends beyond superheroes, since he’s had Garry Trudeau on twice (on December 6, 2010 and December 17, 2013), and talked about the March graphic novel last year with Rep. John Lewis.
It’s probably safe to say that while David Letterman helped bring 1980s alt-comics to a mass audience, awareness of the medium has grown enough that the next “Late Show” host is comfortable sharing his own fandom. Stephen Colbert will no doubt have plenty to discuss in his new gig, but I’ll be looking forward to what he has to say about our favorite art form. (Tom Bondurant)
Amazon buys comiXology
I just spent 1,500 words talking about this a couple of hours ago, so I don’t have any more to say about it at this point. But it’s also pretty huge news for the industry and great news for comiXology itself, so I didn’t want to not mention it. In any event, you can read my thoughts on it here. (JK Parkin)
The end of Life With Archie
It’s not actually good news that Archie Comics is bringing its Life With Archie magazine/comic to an end after 36 issues, but at least they are doing it with a bang.
This has been a daring experiment all along, as writer Paul Kupperberg applied his amazing imagination to what the Riverdale gang would be like in their 20s–and then threw in a few curve balls, such as Moose becoming mayor and Cheryl Blossom getting breast cancer. Now he’s throwing in the biggest twist of all: Archie Andrews will die, heroically, while saving another person’s life. Archie will remain alive and well in the original continuity (where, if he were to die, it would be by slipping on the overly polished floors of the Lodge mansion, falling down a marble staircase, and smashing a priceless Grecian urn with his head).
I’ll miss Life With Archie, which has been a great soap opera and one of the most readable comics published today, but I get that it can’t run forever. It’s very courageous of the Archie folks to do it this way, rather than tying everything up with some sort of happy ending. (Brigid Alverson)
Iron Fist and Kaare Andrews hit the mark
This week not only marks the return of Iron Fist to his own solo title, but the return of Kaare Andrews to the Marvel scene as well. Absent from comics for a few years as he worked on his film projects, Andrews returns for a solo credit on the new series, Iron Fist: the Living Weapon.
Where the last solo series (a runaway hit from Brubaker, Fraction and Aja) focused on who the Iron Fist was and the history of the title came from, this book starts out with a very dire description of who Danny Rand is, starting with musings over his bleak origin tale. I’m honestly surprised this is not a MAX title; while there is no gratuitous adult content, there is a darkness that just goes to show you the man’s been working in horror films for the past few years. Andrews describes the moment Rand lost his parents with agonizing detail that chokes at your heart, contrasting this with the near-apathy Rand shows when confronting ninjas. His art style is imaginatively bleak as the colors split between stark and dreamlike for the flashbacks, his figures are full of muscle and sinew and his faces show horror and boredom in solid black lines.
This is a decidedly different take on Danny Rand, but one that still fits the tone and style of the character. Personally, I’m hooked on issue one and can’t wait to see how far issue two will go. (Carla Hoffman)
Adventures of Superman #50 gives us something to smile about
I love done-in-one stories. At DC and Marvel, those kinds of stories rarely happen. That’s another reason i am grateful for a title like DC’s digital first series, Adventures of Superman. This week Adventures of Superman #50 provided a rare treat–Kelly Sue DeConnick writing a Superman story. For folks looking forward to her upcoming Bitch Planet series with artist Valentine De Landro, we get a sneak peek at what that collaboration may look like as De Landro draws this Superman adventure. DeConnick gives us Lois Lane, Batman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman as well as the Man of Steel all in one story. More than anything else, I was impressed at how economic both storytellers were in covering a lot of narrative ground effectively. Plus Superman smiles. Heroes do not smile enough these days. Some folks may view smiling heroes as hokey, yet I view it as refreshing. (Tim O’Shea)
Cleverness, quirkiness abound in Cosplayers and Lumberjanes
Two great comics came out this week and I got advance copies of both at MoCCA, so I had plenty of time to read them.
Dash Shaw’s Cosplayers is a one-shot comic with three short stories about two women who make their own movie by recording themselves in costume doing various everyday things–delivering a package dressed in a UPS uniform, picking up guys in a bar–and then splicing the videos together. It’s a clever idea, and Shaw brings surprising insight to the very short stories. He uses different panel configurations and color palettes to break each story up into scenes, as if they were movies themselves, and his deft linework makes it all look easy.
Lumberjanes has a totally different vibe: It’s an action-packed tale of strange doings in a summer camp, and it starts out with the heroes out in the woods at night fighting a band of three-eyed foxes. There’s some weirdness afoot, and we don’t really know the whole story by the end of this first issue, but what is clear is that this is going to be a lot of fun. The quintet of heroines reminds me of the great girl adventure stories I read as a kid, but with an updated look and a quirky sense of humor. (Brigid Alverson)