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Alex Brown

Pull List Goes Pride: The Queer Webcomics Revolution

Webcomics are full of untamed creativity, experimental stories, and wholly unique casts, not to mention creators ready and willing to tackle subjects generally avoided by the mainstream. A few webcomics have made the transition to print (the big one in recent years is, of course, Nimona), but most stay online. The freedom a creator has online to do whatever they want doesn’t even come close to Image’s creator-friendly environment. Which is why I love webcomics so much.

I’ve been dying to do a webcomics edition of Pull List for ages, and the combination of Pride Month and needing a break from Big Two comics finally gave me a good excuse. Trouble is, there are so many great webcomics out there that it was impossible to choose just one or two to talk about. After winnowing my very long webcomics library down by series that have recently updated (as in not sporadically or on hiatus) and are not being published in print by major or small/indie presses (excluding self-pub), I offer you a list of some of my current favorite queer SFF webcomics While a few are managed by working comics creators or artists, most are from newbies or non-professionals. Some series are fairly new, others have longer running arcs, but all offer something mainstream comics don’t: a broad range of queer and racially/ethnically diverse characters written and illustrated by creators just as varied.

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The Odd Thomas Movie Is Better Than You Think (Because of Anton Yelchin)

I don’t usually cry at celebrity deaths, but I teared up when I learned of Anton Yelchin’s passing. He always seemed like a genuinely caring, decent person. And though he was only 27, he’d put out a remarkable amount of high-quality work. It breaks my heart to think of all the roles Anton Yelchin never got to play, all the lives he never got to touch, all the years he never got to live.

On the night of his death last year, I went back and rewatched two of my favorite films of Yelchin’s, Fright Night and Odd Thomas. If this year is any indication, it’s going to be an annual tradition. Now, I’m not going to argue that these are his best films—that honor goes to Green Room and Only Lovers Left Alive—but they are the ones I keep going back to, like the cinematic equivalent of comfort food. I’ve written before about my boundless adoration of the updated Fright Night, so now let me talk your ear off about the other Yelchin movie love of my life, the delightfully odd Odd Thomas.

Mild spoilers ahoy.

[“I may see dead people but then, by God, I do something about it.”]

The End Is Only the Beginning: American Gods, “Come to Jesus”

First, let’s start off with the easy stuff. Shadow and Wednesday stop off at Anansi’s clothier—just as Vulcan showed his allegiance, false though it was, by crafting a sword, Anansi does it with bespoke suits. Anansi tells another story of Black pain in an unforgiving New World, but this one has a darker turn. Then, we’re off to Easter’s Easter party. Wednesday lays on the charm and smarm to hook in Easter; meanwhile, Shadow, a man who refuses to believe in what he sees, is confronted with a holy host of gods. The storm Wednesday seeded in the second episode with the dandelion fluff finally blows in and makes The Children a sacrifice to Easter. Shadow’s spiritual crisis comes to a head as Wednesday forces the belief right out of him. Mr. World and the new gods declare war.

[“Goddammit!”]

Gwenda Bond and Lois Lane Save the Day

Lois Lane has always been a bit of a personal hero of mine. Not being a DC comics reader as a child, I didn’t meet her until the wonderfully cheesy Adventures of Lois and Clark. Teri Hatcher’s Lois was gutsy, feisty, and the queen of the eyeroll. She was a woman who didn’t hesitate to do what was right no matter what and who bulldozed right on past Dean Cain’s Clark like the small town farm boy he was. A few years later my love of Lois Lane deepened with Superman: The Animated Series. She was even tougher and more defiant, a journalist who took on danger with a laugh. She wasn’t a Strong Female Protagonist or an Action Girlfriend, but she was independent and intelligent.

These Loises were everything Amy Adams’ (or should I say Zack Snyder’s) Lois isn’t. They weren’t reduced to sex object or damsel in distress. It breaks my heart to see Lois brought so low by the DCEU. Fortunately, Gwenda Bond has the cure for my Lois Lane blues.

[“We’re our own heroes.”]

In the Old Country: American Gods, “A Prayer for Mad Sweeney”

If nothing else, this was a bold choice for a penultimate episode of the season. I genuinely don’t know if I liked it or not. My opinion has vacillated all night between annoyance and delight. Perhaps when looking back on the season as a whole, this detour will make more sense. But right now and with only eight episodes this season, it’s hard to justify any time spent away from Shadow and Wednesday.

[“Malice, draped in pretty, can get away with murder.”]

Death Becomes Them: American Gods, “A Murder of Gods”

Well, it finally happened. American Gods stumbled hard with “A Murder of Gods.” While the sixth episode didn’t suck by any means, it was about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the forehead yet as superficial as Media playing Marilyn Monroe. Plot was buried under piles of visual bombast and empty political commentary. In short, oof.

[“God bless the believers.”]

The Wonder Woman Movie Is An Experience That’s Long Overdue

I went into Wonder Woman practically vibrating with excitement. Not seeing it in the theater opening weekend didn’t even occur to me. It’s a movie starring Wonder Woman, the only superhero movie with a female lead, and the only major comic book franchise film directed by a woman in years*, of course I was going to see it. And I’m clearly not the only one freaking out. As of the time of this writing, Wonder Woman is projected to bring in $223 million worldwide, the third biggest opening of the DCEU. Patty Jenkins now has the distinction of having the best domestic opening weekend of any female director. Unlike most superhero movies where women make up about 40% of the audience, Jenkin’s audience opening weekend was 52% female. Get ready, dudebros. The future is female and the future is now.

Spoilers ahoy.

[“It is our sacred duty to defend the world.”]

Matronly Ghosts and Haunted Mansions: Kit Reed’s Mormama

When Dell Duval wakes, he has no idea who he is. He has no ID, no memories, only a note with a Jacksonville address and a flash drive of unknown contents. After a brief stint living on the streets and researching the house on May Street in Jacksonville, Florida, he moves into the basement and makes tentative contact with its occupants. Living in the old Victorian are Lane and her son Theo and their three ancient widowed, dictatorial aunts. Lane sees the house as a temporary refuge after her husband absconds with all her money. Theo is bored, lonely, and angry at everyone. The aunts want Lane and Theo to stay in the house forever, and react unpleasantly when they refuse.

As Theo soon discovers, there is something evil about the Ellis House. It’s haunted by the ghost of a woman known as “Mormama;” almost every night she comes to Theo’s bedside and whispers about the horrors that have taken place in the house since it was built by its domineering, cruel original owner. Over and over again, men and boys suffer terrible fates inside the walls of the Ellis House. Dell starts to dig into the house’s secret, and despite Mormama’s warnings, uncovers the worst thing imaginable.

[“Get out while you still can.”]

I’ll Make a Man Out of You: Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

Do you get all giddy at YA historical fantasy? Are you craving new diverse fiction? Did you dig Mulan? If you answered yes to all three of those questions, then Renée Ahdieh’s Flame in the Mist is just for you.

At not-quite seventeen, Hattori Mariko suddenly finds herself engaged to the Emperor’s son after some political maneuvering by her father. When her marital caravan is attacked on her way to the palace and everyone slaughtered, Mariko barely escapes and flees into the woods. Everyone blames the band of brigands and rogues who operate under the moniker the Black Clan, and Mariko’s twin brother Kenshin, a seasoned warrior known as the Dragon of Kai, sets out to track her down. Realizing her only way to prove her worth while also protecting her reputation is to figure out who tried to kill her and why, she pretends to be a boy and joins the Black Clan. There Mariko’s innovative intellect thrives. So too does her heart.

Flame in the Mist is a very entertaining novel. It’s also a story you’ve heard before, even if the setting is creative and unique. There’s cryptic political intrigue, intriguing magic, and plenty of characters who aren’t what they seem. I definitely recommend it overall, despite some of the less successful elements. Speaking of which…

[“True weakness is weakness of the spirit.”]

Pull List: Adventure Time with 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank and Misfit City

Between Hydra Cap, Legacy and Generations, the toxic masculinity of Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2, DC’s refusal to release timely trades, inadequate marketing for Wonder Woman, and about a million other irritations, I’m in need of a Marvel and DC break. Thankfully, there are plenty of non Big Two options out there, and I’m not just talking about Image and Dark Horse.

I’ve sung the praises of BOOM! Box and Black Mask Studios before, but get ready because I’m about to do it again with 4 Kids Walk Into a Bank and Misfit City. While the former is nearing the end of its miniseries arc, the latter is only just getting started as an ongoing series. Both have one thing in common: The Goonies. Or, more generally, a weirdly funny story about a pack of adventurous kids getting in way over their heads as they take on greedy adults. Either way, best get on the horn with your independent comic book shop or local library and get your orders in.

[“As far back as lunchtime I always wanted to be a Gangster.”]

Death Is Not the End: American Gods, “Git Gone”

Death comes for us all, but for some, it’s only the beginning. The fourth episode of American Gods sets aside the travels and travails of Shadow and Wednesday to watch the slow motion train wreck that is Laura Moon.

We’ve talked a lot about how American Gods differs between book and television show, about things that work, things that don’t, and how the changes alter the meaning of the story. “Git Gone” is the show’s greatest departure yet from the novel, and also one of the strongest. Gaiman’s story was remarkable, but it lacked depth when it came to race and women. While Bryan Fuller and Michael Green haven’t entirely succeeded in the former, they’ve done stellar work on the latter.

[“Oh, fuck your feelings.”]

Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Teens: Heidi Heilig’s Girl from Everywhere Duology

Welcome to 1,100 words of me gushing about one of my favorite YA fantasy series, the rocking maritime adventure Girl from Everywhere duology by Heidi Heilig. In the first book, The Girl From Everywhere, we meet Hapa teenager Nix (Hapa is a Hawaiian term usually meaning a person of Asian and white ancestry—in Nix’s case, she was born in Honolulu to her white father and Chinese mother). She is the first mate on the Temptation, a ship her father, Slate, uses to travel across time and reality. He is a Navigator, a person who can use a map to travel to the place and time depicted, whether real or fictional. Slate is desperate to return to Oahu in 1868 to save his wife who died shortly after Nixie was born. Nix fears that if he succeeds, the current version of herself will cease to exist. Things get way messier when the crew are tangled up in a plot to steal the King’s treasury and kickstart the American conquest of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.

By The Ship Beyond Time, Nix has learned the basics of Navigation and caught the attention of Donald Crowhurst, a fraudster turned king of a mythical island. Things on the island of Ker-Ys aren’t what they seem. The locals are suspicious and prone to accusations of witchcraft, the waters teem with sea monsters, the taverns are cluttered with mysterious bones, and a mad man with a key roams the cobblestone streets raving about prophecies. Tis the season for lies, unspoken truths, and betrayal. Crowhurst claims to hold the secret to rewriting history, but the cost of such knowledge may be a price Nix is unwilling—or unable—to pay.

[“I was a closed book, a rolled map, a dark territory, unchartered.”]

I Want to Believe: American Gods, “Head Full of Snow”

Well, that was another fantastic episode of American Gods. The show is really starting to pull together nicely. Not that it wasn’t already awesome, but not only has it hit its stride but it’s keeping up the pace without faltering. The story of Shadow, the gods, and America is expanding in astonishing and unexpected ways. I, for one, am thrilled to bits at the promise of Season Two.

[“Hi, Puppy.”]