The Comics Alternative is a weekly podcast focused on the world of alternative, independent and primarily non-superhero comics. New podcast episodes become available every wednesday, much like the comic books you get. There are also a variety of monthly series devoted to manga, webcomics, European comics and comics for young readers.
This week Sterg and Derek focus their critical spotlight on the 2018 publications from Glom Press. This is a little-known publisher out of Melbourne, Australia, that is a buried treasure. They publish a lot of interesting material, gems that may fall out of the attention of most listeners. The guys discuss Glom’s various releases from last year, including
Guidebook to Queer Jewish Spirituality – Mira Schlosberg
The Claw: The Terrible, Beautiful Claw – Marc Pearson
Saliva Tide – Michael Hawkins
Galapagos – Mandy Ord
Sexy Female Murderesses – Eloise Grills
Mystical Boy Scout #4 – Aaron Billings
Swimsuit – Rachel Ang
My Big Life – Baily Sharp
Psychic Hotline – Leonie Brialey
Be sure to check out Glom’s website for more information on these authors and as a way to get these books!
On this episode of the podcast Sterg and Derek look at three exciting titles. They begin with Now #5, the latest in Fantagraphics’ outstanding comics anthology series. As the guys point out, they’re dedicated to discussing every issue of Now that is released, and this one is chock-full of comicy goodness. Although all of the contributions in this issue are intriguing, some of the most notable that the guys discuss are those by Eroyn Franklin, Walker Tate, DRT, Ana Galvañ, DW, Maggie Umber, and especially Walt Holcombe.
And although Derek and Sterg spend the vast majority of their time discussing this anthology — there’s a lot to take in — they also look at two other titles. One of those is most recent incarnation of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’s Criminal (Image Comics). In the new series’ first issue, the protagonist is one familiar to Criminal enthusiasts, Teeg Lawless. But there are other manifestations of Brubaker and Phillips’ world that are imbedded within. After that they look at the first three issues of Scratcher, John Wald and Juan Romera’s self-published horror title that takes place at a tattoo parlor. This is actually a work that its writer alerted the guys to, and they’re glad that he did.
Get your copies of the titles discussed on this episode:
On this episode, Sterg and Derek discuss three recent titles that run the gamut from sci-fi to political to slice-of-life (or what the Two Guys prefer to call verite dessinée). They begin with the latest collection from Craig Yoe, The Unknown Anti-War Comics (IDW Publications/Yoe Books). This is a volume devoted to classic Charlton Comics stories from the 1950s and 1960s — most probably written by Joe Gill — that have a peaceful message to deliver. One of the highlights of this collection is the art of Steve Ditko. After that, the guys jump into the latest issue of Love and Rockets (Fantagraphics Books). Both Derek and Sterg highlight what they particularly like about this specific issue, but they also speculate on the current career trajectories of Gilbert and Jaime and even on what they see as some of the “excesses” of each brother. Finally, the guys wrap up with a discussion of the first two issues of Nnedi Okorafor and Tana Ford’s LaGuardia (Dark Horse Comics/Berger Books). In fact, this is an appropriate title to bookend the episode, along with Charlton anti-war stories. Both Sterg and Derek are intrigued by the premise of this limited series, but at the same time they feel that there’s something missing from the first two issues, which is half of the four-issue run. Is the narrative too decompressed? Lacking enough exposition? Regardless, both guys want to read on and see where Okorafor and Tana end with their timely story.
Get your copies of the titles discussed on this episode:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”
On this, the second show in The Comics Alternative‘s new Critical Takes series, Derek has back on the podcast Keith Dallas, coauthor of the new book, American Comic Book Chronicles: The 1990s. Listeners might remember that he talked with Keith, along with John Wells, back last summer when their Comic Book Implosion was released by TwoMorrows Publishing. In fact, that was the very first Critical Takes episode. This time around, Keith is joined by Jason Sacks, another comics scholar and historian who has worked on other texts within the American Comic Book Chronicles series. The two have just released their volume on the 1990s, a curious and tumultuous time in American comics history. As you’ll hear in conversation, Jason and Keith discuss in detail their first-hand experiences during this decade, the process of researching for this project, the various stereotypes that they had to overcome when encapsulating the decade, and what each of them sees as key defining moments for comics during the 1990s. They also talk about the genesis of the American Comic Book Chronicles series and what we might expect with future volumes.
Get your copy of The 1990s volume and other titles in the American Comic Book Chronicle series:
It’s the first episode of the new year, and for the January Previews show the Two Guys decide to try something different: invite a third person to join them in discussing the current Previews catalog. This week Sterg and Derek are joined by Troy-Jeffrey Allen who works with community outreach at PREVIEWSworld. And given Troy’s association with Diamond Distributors and the ins and outs of their monthly catalog, he’s able to provide insights and additional commentary that results in an extra special discussion. And as you might expect, the addition of a third conversant makes this episode longer than usual…as if the guys’ monthly Previews shows weren’t long enough. Among the many publishers and titles that Troy, Sterg, and Derek highlight are:
On this manga episode, their last of 2018, Shea and Derek look at two recent works of manga that are actually quite similar in a number of ways. They begin with Frankenstein: Junji Ito Story Collection (VIZ Media). This isn’t the first time, by far, that the guys have discussed Junji Ito’s horror work, and whereas they’ve been less impressed with some of his more recent translations, they are more enthusiastic about this current collection. The standout story is Ito’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic romance, which takes up almost half of the text. But the other stories in this collection, specifically the Oshikiri cycle ones, are gripping, as well.
After that the Two Guys check out a wild example of manga, Shintaro Kago’s Dementia 21 (Fantagraphics). While both Derek and Shea had heard of Kago, until now they really hadn’t read any of his works. This book, the first in a two-volume series from the publisher, is a collection of 17 stories that surround the escapades of Yukie Sakai, a young home healthcare aide. Her assignments to a variety of elderly patients all turn out surreal, taking her into mind-blowing adventures that are hilarious as they are nonsensical (and even metafictional, in some cases). Kago’s manga has been described as ero guro nansensu, although in this collection there is more nansensu than there is ero guro. (For the latter, listeners are referred to another translated collection of Kago’s, Super-Dimensional Love Gun, from Fakku Books.)
Get your copies of the manga discussed in this episode:
For their December Euro Comics show, Pascal and Derek discuss two recent French titles in translation. They begin with Thierry Smolderen and Jean-Philippe Bramanti’s McCay (Titan Comics), a surreal narrative surrounding the life of comics legend Windsor McCay. But this work is not a biography. Smolderen takes historical moments in McCay’s life and from those weaves a fantastical tale that includes noir intrigue, metafictional elements, and the fourth dimension. After that the guys turn to the three volumes of Yann and Alain Henriet’s Bear’s Tooth (Cinebook). Each of the three works — Max, Hanna, and Werner — is based on one of the three protagonists in this World War II tale. As Pascal reveals, Yann and Henriet’s follow up to this series (not yet translated) continues the storyline, but with strange alternate history twist.
Check out the books from the creators discussed on this episode:
It’s that time again! It’s the end of the year, their very last weekly review episode of 2018, and so the Two Guys are ready to share what they consider to be their favorite comics of the past twelve months. This is Sterg’s first time doing this, but he successfully steps up to the plate to reveal what he considers his 10 favorites of 2018. And Derek does the same.
Before that, though, they go over a few statistics from the past year. Over the course of 2018 — at least up until the time of the recording of this end-of-the-year show — The Comics Alternative released a total of 171 episodes of the podcast. Of that number, 55 were interviews, 10 were webcomics shows, 11 manga episodes, 10 from the Euro comics series, 6 were young reader shows, 16 on-location episodes, and 1 special. (And since Sterg and Derek recorded this “Favorites” episode, there have been at least three other shows for the current year, an on-location, a webcomic, and a Euro comics show. Maybe a manga episode will go up before the new year, as well?)
But of much more importance are the various titles that both Sterg and Derek picked as this year’s favorites. Each chooses, in no particular order, what he considers to be his 10 favorites of 2018:
On this webcomics episode, the last of 2018, Sean and Derek get into the holiday spirit. They discuss three titles that concern Christmas or the winter season (i.e., has the word “snow” in the title). They begin with Leonardo Faierman and Marcus Kwame Anderson’s Snow Daze, a narrative about a group of enterprising teenagers in Queens, NY, who create a business shoveling snow, all the while dealing with the challenges of urban life, especially as it concerns matters of race. After that the guys look at another snow-related webcomic, Snow by Night, written by Eric Menge and with primary art by Julie A. Wright and Brittany Michel. This is a fantasy inspired by French colonial culture in North America, and largely revolves around a manitou, a nature spirit of the wilderness, who quests to find her “heart.” Finally, Derek and Sean turn to a quite different webcomic, one created by the Blizzard Entertainment corporation to supplement one of their popular video games. Michael Chu and Miki Montlló’s Overwatch: Reflections is a Christmas story involving the character Tracer as she attempts to find a last-minute gift and (predictably enough) learns the true meaning of the season.
Check out some of the books by creators discussed on this episode: