Pop Culture Happy Hour: On Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Paper Girls And More

I got the chance to crash the Pop Culture Happy Hour party again.

This time, we gathered to discuss the fantastic, hilarious show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which in the absence of Parks And Recreation is now my favorite network comedy.

Also on the show, we discuss a topic I originally suggested as a joke, mostly because due to being so busy with the day job and writing so much for NPR Music — plus the Royals being in the playoffs all of October — and not having much time to catch up on movies or TV. The topic title still cracks me up: Pop Culture I Hop To Finally Get Around To One Day When I Have Some Damn Spare Time To Myself Oh God I’m So Tired I Just Need To Lie Down For A Second But I Promise I’ll Get To It Soon.

Then, in What’s Making Me Happy this week, I talk about the first issue of a great new comic series Paper Girls, by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang. It’s already so good.

One other note: This podcast was originally taped on Oct. 26, the day before the Royals started the World Series — but it dropped a few days after the team won it all. So you can prob hear a little bit of my hesitant optimism here because I’m sure I was a) just thrilled to be in the playoffs and World Series; and b) nervous that they might fall short. Luckily, in present day, I know we didn’t and won! So, relax Oct. 26 Mike, everything turns out just great in the end!

My Favorite New Comics (I Read) In 2014

Another year, another fantastic year of comics. And, another year where comic book characters demonstrated their dominance in pop entertainment.

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Bryan Lee O’Malley’s ‘Seconds’ Mulls Life Choices, Parallel Universes

Once, years back, when I was living in D.C., I walked out of a movie theater, and instead of heading home, I decided on a whim to go stop by a bookstore. It was a bookstore that I rarely ever went to, one sorta out of my way — and so I took a train I rarely ride on. When I got to my stop, I literally — physically — bumped into an old friend of my sister’s while getting off the train. This occasionally can happen, sure, but in this case, she did not live in D.C. at the time. Yet in that moment, she not only happened to be in town, but apparently in the same metro station, and entering the same train car I was exiting. At the exact same time. Weird.

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My 13 Favorite Comics (I Read) In 2013

If last year brought me back into the fold of regular comics reading again, 2013 was a year where I actively broadened my horizons and sampled new things. And for the first time, I truly felt I had so many more options for how to buy and read comics — single monthly issues, digital issues on iPad, trade collections — that I actually had to choose my method for which comics.

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Eight Comics To Look Forward To In 2013

The last year in comics was an especially strong one thanks to many excellent long-running series wrapping up, and, in turn, many more being relaunched in the last few months by Marvel and DC. And don’t forget the huge year at Image with many stellar new creator-owned series. There was so much to like, and I still haven’t gotten to everything various writers have recommended in their best of 2012 lists.

So how do you follow that? Well, clearly by trying new stuff slated to debut this year. Here’s a few things — a lot of superhero books, admittedly — I’m looking forward to in the coming few months of 2013.

SUPERIOR SPIDER-MAN | Dan Slott, Ryan Stegman, Humberto Ramos, et al | (Marvel)

Dan Slott’s long gestating run on Amazing Spider-Man culminated with a new, more, um, villianous lead character in the exceptional and controversial final issue #700. It’s supposedly a darker and bolder new direction that was sure to rankle longtime fans. Let’s see (SPOILER ALERT!!): Peter Parker’s mind got switched Freaky Friday-style into Doctor Octopus’ dying withered body, and vice-versa. Then Doc Ock’s body died, and supposedly the real Peter Parker with it. Now Doc Ock has Peter’s young body and all his memories and no one knows what just went down. Got all that? While no one knows how long this current status quo will last, Slott has more than proven his love for and full understanding of Spidey and he’s more than earned trust that he has a big story to come. But if one thing is certain, he’s about to take us on another wild ride.


UNCANNY X-MEN / ALL-NEW X-MEN | Brian Michael Bendis, Chris Bachalo, Stuart Immomen | (Marvel)

As Brian Michael Bendis shifts from his giant eight-year run on the Avengers books to helm the X-Men franchise, we’re getting the writer splitting his big story between the already-launched All-New X-Men and a soon-to-be released Uncanny book. There’s been a shift in power dynamics in X-Men’s world: Cyclops is a sorta villain mutant freedom fighter running around with Magneto, new mutants are popping up all over the world, and the original Stan Lee\Jack Kirby-era teenage team (Marvel Girl, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel) has just been transported to the modern day, shocked at what they see. It’s a gutsy set up being given a lot of space to build, not to mention new territory for a decidedly reinvigorated Bendis. And thanks to artists Stuart immoman and Chris Bachalo, you know these two books are going to be gorgeously designed and full of vibrant energy.


THE GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY | Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven | (Marvel)

Outside of Brian K. Vaughan’s stellar new series Saga, I don’t much care for sci if space opera mixing into my comics. And when it comes to space superheroes, I often tune out, as I did with the much-heralded run of cosmic Marvel books from writers Keith Giffen, Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning. (I should catch up on those someday.) But with a Guardians movie announced this summer to be on the horizon and Bendis and the hyper-realistic art McNiven taking on this new book, I have to say I’m intrigued enough to try it out. A creation of the 1970s cosmic era of Marvel, Guardians are focused around hero Star-Lord Peter Quill and his gang that includes Groot, a talking alien tree, and Rocket Racoon, a gruff gun-totting racoon. With Bendis’ equally relatable and funny characterization and his giant story scope, these oft-neglected characters may actually break through and find a bigger audience.


PHONOGRAM: THE IMMATERIAL GIRL | Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie | (Image)

I gobbled up the first two collected editions of Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Phonogram, and loved the series for its whip-smart humor, clean pop art-styled illustration and design and the deep cuts-heavy music references to Britpop and the U.K. music scene. Also the concept — music as magic — was inventive and weird and really fun. After the second series, Singles Club, there’s been a long hiatus, mainly due to financial reasons, but the story always felt like there was more to tell and somewhat unfinished business. Last year the duo surprised many by announcing a third installment, but that book kept getting pushed back for other projects. Here’s hoping this will finally see the light of day in 2013.


YOUNG AVENGERS | Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie | (Marvel)

Okay, so bad news: Phonogram has been pushed back and we may have to wait awhile for that book to surface. Good news: It is because the same creative team is taking on the Young Avengers as part of the whole Marvel Now initiative. Gillen had a well-liked run with Kid Loki in his Journey Into Mystery arc (I haven’t read it, but read it was good), and continues with that character here, along with various other next generation superheroes. This book looks to take on the excitement of being young, on the verge of adulthood and having crazy superpowers too. I’d say this might be the breakout hit of the year thanks to the writer and artist sure to bring their winning indie chemistry to a big time series.


SEX CRIMINALS | Matt Fraction, Chip Zdarsky | (Image)

Okay, so if you search the name of this book on the web, make you add some extra search terms at the end, since this is maybe one of the most un-Google-able comic titles since Girls (not the band, or the Lena Dunham TV show). Still, Matt Fraction’s Sex Criminals — his first new creator-owned book since Casanova — has a killer set up, that seems tailor-made for Fraction’s weirder ideas: It’s a sex comedy following two young lovers on a “lust-fueled crime spree with a twist — when they have sex, time itself seems to stop.” Sure to be full of filthy, sexy humor and layered plot lines, Fraction and Zdarsky’s book may be 2013’s breakout success from Image.


PRETTY DEADLY | Kelly Sue DeConnick, Emma Rios | (Image)

I haven’t read too much from Kelly Sue DeConnick, but she seems poised for a big year: Coming off a critical darling miniseries, Osborne, DeConnick relaunched Captain Marvel this summer, and just took over Avengers Assemble, which looks to be a good jumping-on, new-reader-friendly book for fans of The Avengers film. Now in 2013, DeConnick and her Captain Marvel and Osborn collaborator Emma Rios are getting in on the creator-owned boom over at Image with Pretty Deadly, a gritty spaghetti western featuring a female assassin lead character with a physical disfigurement. With so few westerns and even fewer good female antiheroes in comics, this series may be a nice change of pace for an up-and-coming writer worth keeping an eye on.


LAZARUS | Greg Rucka, Michael Lark | (Image)

Greg Rucka and Michael Lark first teamed up together with Ed Brubaker on DC’s acclaimed, Batman-adjacent police procedural Gotham Central, but the pair is reuniting with Lazarus, a series set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian future destroyed by economic strife. Centered around protagonist Endeavor Carlyle — a “genetically modified one-person security detail” — the sci fi-centric story seems to be inspired by the recent Occupy movements and the clashes between the one percent in government and corporations and the lower classes. With such a high concept ahead it’ll be interesting to see how Rucka and Lark — who are mostly known for their noir crime work — adapt to world-building and futurist character and technology design. Regardless, it’s a story that sounds like it could easily be adapted to television or film, and one I’d be eager to read on.


The Six Best Comics I Read In 2012

So I’ve never written about comics, but lately I’ve become a fairly regular reader. And this year I’ve found to be one of the strongest years I can remember. Here’s an unranked round-up of some of my favorites that I look forward to. I cannot say I read everything out there — you’ll notice no DC books because I don’t read those — and I sort of pick and choose based on what others are talking about. So really, this is not a comprehensive Best of 2012 list. It’s just a bit of a recommendation of things to try out.

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Comics Review: Marvel Now Point One


by: Nick Spencer, Luke Ross / Brian Michael Bendis, Steve McNiven / Jeph Loeb, Ed McGuinness / Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie / Matt Fraction, Mike Allred / Dennis Hopeless, Gabriel Hernandez Walta

As far as introduction teaser anthologies go, Marvel Now Point One succeeds at building excitement for Marvel’s latest initiative. It’s clear that moving around writers (namely Bendis, Fraction, Ed Brubaker, Jonathan Hickman) and artists to new projects and different characters after many years on a book has reinvigorated the stories. While the old guard’s runs were hugely successful and built the foundation for nearly a decade worth of stories, it’s nice to see new blood on properties and writers jazzed to begin their own epic runs.

Point One succeeds by not just proving the first few pages of a new book, but creating short stories that tease the tone and feel of what’s on tap with books like Guardians Of The Galaxy, Nova, FF, Young Avengers, Cable And X-Force, and Secret Avengers.

Among those that look the most enticing would be the new FF series and Young Avengers, both of which bring a mod pop art look and superb design sense to the characters, the panel layout and colors that catch the eye. The tone of both series seems to be a ton of fun, and not your typical superhero book. These look to be modernist, deconstructionalist, but ultimately family-friendly takes that take advantage of the tropes of superhero comics but also feel like indie books with a lot of quirks and distinctive feel.

The others — Cable and X-Force, Guardians, Nova, and Secret Avengers — show promise as well. There seems to be a push towards diversity, even within the superhero format, proving that many of these books coming down the line in this new initiative will be worth trying out, sampling the kinds of books you’re looking for. There’s a lot to be excited about and there’s certainly something in this batch for you.