10 essential titles to pick up on Free Comic Book Day

Saturday, May 6, is Free Comic Book Day, coming as it does the first Saturday after the summer’s first big comic book movie, aka the first Saturday in May. (“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” is the name of that one and it is a bit… mixed).

Favorite for paper – James Roberts searches through boxes of comic books for sale on the first day of Wizard World Austin Comic Con at the Austin Convention Center on Friday, November 22nd, 2013. ERIKA RICH / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Some shops will be having special events or costumes or special snacks or just lines. Contact your local shop to see what hours it will be open and if the staff — all of whom will be working a very long day, possibly outside for at least part of it —  are doing anything that requires looking like Bane or Hellboy.


Here are ten comics that jumped out at me as worth checking out:

“Secret Empire” (Marvel)

Remember about a year ago when it looked like Captain America was an agent of Hydra and it kind of bummed everyone out? That plotline hits a peak in Marvel’s “Secret Empire” series, as (alternate universe?) Cap reveals himself to have been a Hydra agent all along. Writer Nick Spencer and artist Andrea Sorrentino bring the entire Marvel Universe together to fight Hydra, who have now taken over the country. We’ll see how this goes.  Plus, in less politically tone-deaf news: Check out a preview of storytellers Chip Zdarsky and Paulo Siqueira’s revival of “Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man,” which brings Spider-Man back to his humble roots. (He’s been head of a corporation for a while, it’s a whole thing.) Rated: Teen

“Wonder Woman” (DC)

Bestselling writer Greg Rucka had a really good run on “Wonder Woman” in the early 2000s and has returned for an equally acclaimed run with fan-favorite artist Nicola Scott. Wonder Woman has had kind of a rough go of it continuity-wise for the past 30 years or so, but Rucka is doing a bang-up job. (This is a reprint of his recent Wonder Woman #2.) Rated: Teen

“Buffy: The Teen Years” (Dark Horse)

Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slyer” has thrived in the comics format. But it’s rarely been all-ages. That changes with this book wherein writers Kel McDonald and Paul Tobin join artists Rachel Downing and Yishan Li for a story of 16-year-old Buffy fighting monsters and hanging out with pals. With a Plants vs. Zombies bonus story. Rated: All ages

“The Ballad of Franklin Bonisteel” (Lion’s Forge)

Full disclosure: Writer Gabe Soria is a friend of mine. In spite of this blight on his character, you should check out this one-shot about record producer Frank Bonisteel. Drawn by artist Warren Pleece, it’s a prequel (can a prequel come out before the actual book?) to Soria’s and artist Paul Reinwand’s really cool looking book “Murder Ballads,” a rock ‘n’ roll myth. Includes a download code for a cover of “In the Pines” by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and bluesman Robert Finely. Rated: Teen

“I Hate Image” (Image)

While some companies reprint books for Free Comic Book Day, some (see also the one directly above) are new stories. In “I Hate Image,” Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu smash the fourth wall as Gertrude, the extremely violent star of their “I Hate Fairyland,” goes on a rampage against the casts of (completely unconnected) Image titles such as “Saga,” “The Walking Dead,” “Savage Dragon,” “Black Science,” “Spawn” and many others. Rated: Mature

“Kid Savage” (Image)

Man of Action Entertainment, the folks behind such vibrant IP as “Ben 10,” “Big Hero 6,” and “I Kill Giants” (specifically writer Joe Kelly and artist Ilya), present the story of a troubled, space-faring family who must rely on a, well, savage guide when they crash on his primitive planet. Rated: All ages

“World’s Greatest Cartoonists” (Fantagraphics)

Every year, art/literary comics king Fantagraphics produces a stellar sampler of those whom they publish, and this year is no different, featuring all-new, exclusive work from such cartoonists as Noah Van Sciver, Simon Hanselmann, Ed Piskor, Dash Shaw, Emil Ferris and many more.  A must-have and a great way to sample great talent. Rated: Mature

“Star Trek: The Next Generation — Mirror Broken” (IDW)

Writers Scott and David Tipton join artist J. K. Woodward to present a “Next Generation” story taking place in the Mirror Universe, where the Federation gave way to the Terran Empire and, incidentally, where that show never ventured. Check out the guns on Picard! Rated: All ages

“2000AD” (Rebellion)

The legendary British sci/fantasy anthology turns 40 this year and celebrated with a 32-page special starring Judge Dredd, the A.B.C. Warriors, Mallory Hope, Judge Anderson and Judge Death. Comes with additional digital content. Rated: Teen

“Catalyst Prime: The Event” (Lion’s Forge)

Christopher J. Priest has returned! After a long absence from comics, the writer of the terrific “Quantum and Woody” and the early-2000s “Black Panther” is back writing comics. His “Deathstroke” for DC is loads of fun and here he joins co-writer Joseph Illidge and artists Marco Turini and Jessica Kholinne to kick off the Catalyst Prime universe with this one-shot about an asteroid which changes the lives of five astronauts exposed to it. Rated: Teen.


Austin fave Link Wray was born 88 years ago today

The man.

Happy birthday to the late Link Wray, the one-lunged, Shawnee native who changed the way people thought about guitar would have been 88 today. Antone’s celebrates his legacy at a concert later this month.

Wray is credited with inventing (or at least popularizing) both the power chord and distortion as a vital part of a guitarist’s musical palette, two elements upon which the rock ‘n’ roll church is built.

Wray, who hailed from Dunn, N.C., did most of his best work in the Washington, D.C./Northern Virginia/Maryland area. Legend has it that the Korean War veteran came up with his primal rock instrumental ‘Rumble’ while playing a dance at the Fredericksburg (Virginia) Arena.

Someone asked for a stroll, and Wray and his band knocked out one of the most powerful instrumentals of all time. The single was released in ’58 and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Rumble” is a wonderful song to listen to in the autumn — this sound is wind in the Central Virginia hills, leather jackets over heavy flannel shirts and violent D.C. juke joints.

It’s a sound that hypnotized everyone from Pete Townshend to Bob Dylan; bands such as the Cramps and the Rev. Horton Heat built entire careers around the rockabilly-as-menace shtick, mixing it with junk culture and punk rock.

His hits collections, full of ripping instrumentals such as”Raw-Hide,” “Jack the Ripper,” “Ace of Spades,” are mandatory listening for every rock fan.

As the Beatles ascended, instrumental rock faded. In in the late 60s and early 70s, Wray‘s career had a strange second act when he and his band cut three albums over a few years time on his father’s farm in Maryland, the “3-Track Shack.” A blend of blues, country, gospel, Native American chants and folk, they sound like the could have been cut tomorrow. One of them, “Beans and Fatback” was reissued for Record Sore Day 2017.

But he never forgot his overdriven, holes-in-the-amp-speaker roots, especially as punk embraced fuzz and distortion.  “Link Wray: Live at the Paradiso, released in 1979, is a proto-noise-rock stunner.

Wray — who toured until his death and did two nights at the Continental Club several months prior — is remembered for making music that embodied the idea of rock guitar as dangerous, as menacing, as something that could barely be tamed.

For those who want to see Austin players pay tribute to the godfather of distortion, head over to Antone’s on May 13 for the “13 Guitar Rumble” starring Burnin’ Mike Vernon (3 Balls of Fire), Eve Monsees (Exiles), Mike Buck (LeRoi Bros), Denny Freeman (Bob Dylan),  Speedy Sparks (Sir Douglas Quintet), Rosie Flores,
Rick Broussard (Two Hoots and A Holler), Steve Fulton, John X Reed, Danny B Harvey (Nancy Sinatra), Pierre Peligrin (Havana 3am), Pat Collins (LeRoi Bros), Don Leady (Tail Gators), Jack Montesinos (Don Leady’s Rockin Revue) and Homer Henderson along with all kinds of guests.

Tony Hale talks acting, ‘Veep’ in ‘On Story’

Julia Louis Dreyfus and Tony Hale on “Vep

On tonight’s broadcast of “On Story,” check out actor Tony Hale on the best acting advice Julia Louis Dreyfus ever gave him.

“On Story” airs 7:30 p.m. CT on KLRU-Q; the audio /radio version can  be found PRI and available at onstory.tv and iTunes, Stitcher and elsewhere.

Bret Anthony Johnston’s American Short Fiction story takes £30,000 award

Texas writer Bret Anthony Johnston (“Remember Me Like This” has won the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award for his story “Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows About Horses,” originally published last fall in Austin literary magazine American Short Fiction’s 25th anniversary issue.

The prestigious international prize is the richest for a single story in the English language, worth £30,000 (almost $39,000 in today’s exchange rate) to the winner.

Two recent ASF stories were selected for “Best American Short Stories 2017” and another for “Best American Nonrequired Reading 2017.”

You can read Johnston’s story in its entirety on the Story Award’s website.

The annual contest is judged by a panel of renowned editors, literary journalists, and writers. This year’s winner was chosen by Anne Enright, Mark Lawson, Neel Mukherjee, Rose Tremain, and Andrew Holgate. The judges praised it as a story “in which small details take on vast significance, and perceptions have the kick of a stallion.”

Johnston’s best-selling “Remember Me Like This” was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and the winner of the 2015 McLaughlin-Esstman-Stearns Prize.  Johnston teaches in the Bennington Writing Seminars and at Harvard University, where he is the Director of Creative Writing.

Here is Johnston at BookPeople in 2014.

Willie and “The Handmaid’s Tale:” No, it’s not a new CCR song

Elisabeth Moss confronts a rather grim existence in “The Handmaid’s Tale”


This week, look out for:

“Dreaming the Beatles” by Rob Sheffield (Dey St.) Boy howdy, is this book good. (April 25)

“Borne: A Novel” By Jeff VanderMeer (MCD) In the highly anticipated follow-up his outstanding Southern Reach trilogy, VanderMeer explores the story of Rachel, a scavenger in a dead city once-dominated by collapsed corporation called the Company, who adopts a being called Borne. Long a top-drawer editor, VanderMeer is becoming contemporary master of gripping, thoughtful s-f weirdness. (April 25)

“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu). I think it’s safe to say that this 10-episode series is the crown jewel of Hulu’s original programming for 2017. This terrifyingly relevant story, based on Margaret Atwood’s classic of dystopian feminist science fiction, stars Elisabeth Moss, Yvonne Strahovski, a very creepy Joseph Fiennes, Samira Wiley and more. Three episodes launch the show; the rest arrive weekly on Wednesdays. One suspects that this might be the future of streaming: a balance between bingeing and weekly waits, which both gives the show time to build an audience and prevents folks from watching all of it at once and the show having less overall impact as a result. (April 26)

Feist, “Pleasure” (Interscope). She’s back! It’s her first album since 2011 and her fifth overall. Expect a whole mess of emotional, intense song craft. Who doesn’t like Leslie Feist? (April 28)

Willie Nelson, “God’s Problem Child” (Legacy Recordings). Another seven months, another Willie Nelson album (the last one came out in September). Many songs were written by Nelson and producer Buddy Cannon. Also looks for songs by Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White, vocals from the late Leon Russell, a song about the 2016 election called “Delete and Fast-Forward” and a tribute to Merle Haggard called “He Won’t Ever Be Gone.” And, yes, the original title of the album was “I’m Not Dead.” Forever and ever, amen.

Justin Marks discusses ‘The Jungle Book’ on ‘On Story’


On tonight’s (April 22 ) broadcast of “On Story,” check out screenwriter Justin Marks discussing how to update “The Jungle Book.”


“On Story” airs 7:30 p.m. CT on KLRU-Q; the audio /radio version can  be found PRI and available at onstory.tv and iTunes, Stitcher and elsewhere.

Galactica’s crew reunites on the closing night of ATX Television fest

Adama, father and son. Starbuck. Baltar. Six.

All in the house.

Cast members of “Battlestar Galactica” — Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, James Callis, Tricia Helfer, Katee Sackhoff, Grace Park, Michael Trucco and Michael Hogan — will join creator/executive producer Ronald D. Moore (“Outlander”) for the closing night (June 10) of the ATX Television Festival.

ATX returns for a sixth year June 8 to 11.

The cast will also be featured in an “EW Reunites: Battlestar Galactica” special on the streaming People/Entertainment Weekly Network.

This year’s reunion is part of a multi-year partnership between EW and ATX, which kicked off last year with the “Ugly Betty” reunion presented by EW on closing night.

So, yeah, someone ask Moore about that whole “All Along the Watchtower” thing.