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Opinion

FunkyWatch: August 2014 Was Funky Winterbean & Crankshaft’s Most Depressing Ever

FunkyWatch: August 2014

Over the past 40 years, Tom Batiuk’s Funky Winkerbean has transitioned from a gag-a-day comic strip about a high school to an ongoing chronicle of pure, abject misery. Thanks to the ongoing commentary on Josh Fruhlinger’s Comics Curmudgeon, I am now completely obsessed with it, which is why I spend a little time every month rounding up its finest examples of crushing despair.

This month... oh brother, this month. Tom Batiuk's offerings over the past few weeks have made August 2014, without question, the single worst and most mind-bogglingly bizarre month on record. If you haven't been reading my recaps of the strip over the past few years, this is the one you're going to want to start with, if only to see how completely irate one man can get over a newspaper comic strip about a man trying to write a made-for-cable movie about his dead wife.

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Gang War In Purgatory: ‘Dead Letters’ Delivers [Review]

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Like a good pop song, if a genre comic is going to keep you interested, it has to have a hook. It really doesn't matter if the art is exceptional, or it has an inventive structure or well-written characters. If it can't be distilled into one intriguing sentence of less than ten words, then it's not going to keep your attention. Blind guy fights crime; orphaned billionaire is world's greatest detective; six guns control the fate of the world; this Avenger is a freaking mess; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, etc. But you can't just have the hook -- a comic with bad art, poor writing, and a fantastic hook is still a mediocre comic.

Dead Letters Vol. 1: The Existential Op by Christopher Sebela and Chris Visions, is far from mediocre, with strong writing, captivating and kinetic art, and a hook that will grab you from the get-go: amnesiac detective joins gang war in Purgatory.

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Best Comic Book Covers Ever (This Month): August 2014

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A great comic book cover is an advertisement, a work of art, a statement, and an invitation. A great comic book cover is a glimpse of another world through a canvas no bigger than a window pane. In Best Comic Book Covers Ever (This Month), we look back over some of the most eye-catching, original and exceptional covers of the past month.

August offers a feast of shape and color, with striking covers by Scott Fischer, Victor Santos, Chrystin Garland, and Tula Lotay, some bold juxtaposition, and a quirky take on a pulp archetype or two -- including a Nazi airship and some poor sap being held in a giant hand. It's a classic!

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Jack Kirby: A ‘King-Sized’ 97th Birthday Tribute Spectacular, Part Two!

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Jack Kirby is very probably the single most influential figure in the history of American comics. He produced countless stories in a career that spanned seven decades, inventing and re-inventing genres and styles every step of the way. He inspired generations of artists and writers; created and co-created thousands of characters; defined the visual vocabulary of superheroes; and believed in the potential of comics to be both entertainment and art, long before most people imagined these stories would be remembered past the four weeks that they sat on newsstands.

This week would have been Kirby’s 97th birthday, so to celebrate, we asked some of our favorite creators and other comic pros to contribute their impressions of his characters, life, and legacy – and the response has been overwhelming. Yesterday, we posted the first set of these all-star tributes, and here's the second, even more expansive selection!

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Ask Chris #209: The Strange Saga Of Batgirl Cassandra Cain

Ask Chris art by Erica Henderson

Q: Cassandra Cain: WTF happened? -- @IamMedellin

A: Here's the least shocking thing you're going to read this week: I love Cassandra Cain. That probably goes without saying, given that she's a relatively obscure member of the Batman family that made her debut when I was a teenager, but really, it goes deeper than that. She came out of the gate with a compelling edge, some phenomenally solid storytelling, and a hook for drama that put her in contrast to the rest of Gotham's assorted heroes and hangers-on, while still feeling like a natural compliment to the other characters. And then, less than a decade later, she'd gone from being a new character with an incredible amount of potential to an also-ran who only really shows up to fill space in crossovers -- something that almost never happens to characters in the Batman family, especially when they've got 70+ solo issues under their utility belts.

So what happened? Man, I can't even tell you, I just read the darn things. But folks, it got really weird there at the end.

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The Uncertainty Of Change: A Closer Look At The ‘Legend of Korra’ Book 3 Finale

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Avatar: The Last Airbender's four-episode finale starts with a beach party. Sokka cracks jokes as he scrambles across a crumbling airship. The last spoken line is a blind joke. It is clear to me, in a way that it wasn't when I first watched it, that these characters are young teens. Young teens dealing with genocidal dictatorships, Orwellian city-states and the general mayhem of war, absolutely, but their age lends the whole affair a constant, underlying levity. The adults that exist are kept at arm's length from the action—present, but unmistakably marked as “grown-ups,” and thus distant. Youth, and all its connotations of hope and humor, are the engine of the show.

Legend of Korra, in contrast, is downright grim.

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Revival, Reinvention, Resurrection: The Power Of Great Superhero Costume Design

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We live in a time of awesome superhero costumes in comics. The rise and rise of cosplay culture, the emergence of comic artists with a savvy understanding of fashion, and the slow diversification that's making heroes palatable to a broader audience, have all contributed to a costuming culture with more to offer than capes and pants.

Superhero costumes have always been an asset to the industry, because iconography helps establish character and create a brand. But the value of costumes in reaching audiences and reinventing characters seems to be recognized now as never before, leading to the rise of artist-designers like Jamie McKelvie and Kris Anka, who don't even need to be on a particular book in order to be called in to make-over the characters. This is a great leap forward in understanding just what a good costume can do -- and the special skills required to do it.

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Rachel & Miles X-Plain The X-Men: Special Guest Kurt Busiek Answers For ‘The Phoenix Retcon’

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Welcome back to Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, a weekly podcast in which X-Perts Rachel Edidin and Miles Stokes explore the ins, outs, and retcons of fifty years of Marvel’s greatest superhero soap opera!

This week: Special guest Kurt Busiek is the J. Rober Oppenheimer of X-Men, Rachel and Miles learn to love the Silver Age, Cyclops gets a job, Bernard the Poet falls from grace, we really wish X-Men: The Secret Years was a real book, everyone recites poetry, and we still don’t get around to Marvels.

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Oh My God: Dynamite’s ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Comic Book Is Seriously Great [Erotic Friend Fiction]

Bob's Burgers #1, Dynamite Entertainment

Traditionally speaking, TV tie-in comics have been a pretty mixed bag. The ones that are bad tend to fall flat pretty hard, ranging from forgettable to outright terrible. Occasionally, it's because they feel like cheap cash-ins, but more often, it's just a simple case of the tie-in not being able to capture the same spirit and feeling of the source material. But sometimes, every once in a while, you get something like the Bill and Ted's Excellent Comic Book series that Evan Dorkin did for Marvel back in the '90s, where he took the Wyld Stallyns on a full year of increasingly bizarre adventures and ended up making something that's actually amazing, or the recent Eisner-winning Adventure Time comics.

This week marked the launch of Dynamite's Bob's Burgers comic, and while it's only one issue in, I'm already going to go ahead and say that it goes far beyond capturing the spirit of the show, to the point where it feels like it could be a lost episode. It's not just a great translation of Bob's Burgers to comics, it's great Bob's Burgers, period.

Mostly because it starts with Erotic Friend Fiction about Tina being a horse.

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SEE IT – TO BELIEVE IT: Jack Kirby’s Wildest DC Comics Covers In Honor Of The King’s 97th Birthday

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Jack Kirby is arguably the single most influential figure in the history of American comics. He produced countless stories in a career that spanned seven decades, inventing and re-inventing genres and styles every step of the way. He inspired generations of artists and writers; created and co-created thousands of characters; defined the visual vocabulary of superheroes; and believed in the potential of comics to be both entertainment and art, long before most people imagined these stories would be remembered past the four weeks that they sat on newsstands.

This Thursday would have been Kirby's 97th birthday. We've assembled some pieces to celebrating the life and work of the man American comics also knows as "the King." This one focuses on Kirby's strength as a cover illustrator.

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