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Logan’s Favorite Comics of 2021

Even though it was a shitty year overall, I found some great comics to enjoy in 2021, both old and new. Beginning with its “Future State” event, DC easily shot up to become my favorite mainstream publisher thanks to its renewed focus on different visual styles instead of a Jim Lee-esque art style and its emphasis on LGBTQ+ characters even after Pride Month. Vault and Image continued to be the homes of both my favorite creators and SF stories, and AWA, Dark Horse and even Black Mask and Archie had titles that surprised me even if they didn’t make the cut on this list. Finally, continuing a trend that I jumped on in 2020, I continued to read or revisit classic comics (Both old and new) in 2021, like Copra, Invincible, The Umbrella Academy, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Wonder Woman: True Amazon, The Invisibles, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Force, Hawkeye, and Black Bolt among others.

So, without further ado, here are my ten favorite comics of 2021

10. Alice in Leatherland (Black Mask)

Alice in Leatherland is a wholesome, sexy, and hyper-stylized slice of life romance comic from the creative team of Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli. The book is about Alice, a children’s book writer, who leaves her small town for San Francisco when her girlfriend cheats on her and captures the fear and adrenaline of taking a big step in your life. The series explores sex and love through an expansive cast of LGBTQ+ characters that I wanted to spend more than five issues with. Romboli uses fairy tale style visuals as a metaphor to examine Alice’s feelings and self-growth throughout the series, and she excels at depicting both the hilarious and erotic. Alice in Leatherland is an emotional, funny read with well-developed queer characters and made me immediately add Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli to the list of creators I’ll read anything by.

9. The Autumnal (Vault)

The Autumnal by Daniel Kraus, Chris Shehan, and Jason Wordie was the most unsettling comic I read in 2021. The book follows Kat Somerville and her daughter Sybil as they leave Chicago for the town of Comfort Notch, New Hampshire. However, this town isn’t a rural oasis, but incredibly creepy. Kraus’ script unravels the foundation of blood that the town is built on while Shehan and Wordie create tension with the fall of the leaf or a crackle of a branch. I also love how fleshed out Kat is as she deals with being an outsider in what turns out to be an unfriendly space with her parenting style and approach to life being critiqued by her neighbors. Finally, The Autumnal is the finest of slow burns beginning with NIMBY/Karen-like behavior and then going full-on death cult. It’s a must read for anyone who has lived or experienced a place where time seems to stand still, or who thinks a NextDoor app post could be the basis of a good horror story.

8. The Joker (DC)

Contrary to its title, James Tynion, Guillem March, Steffano Rafaele, Arif Prianto, and others’ The Joker isn’t a comic looking at the Clown Prince of Crime’s inner psyche, but is a globe-trotting P.I. type story featuring Jim Gordon trying to capture the Joker for some folks that looks shadier and shadier as the story progresses. Tynion and (predominantly) March show the effect Joker has had on Gordon’s life and his family while also showing him discover himself outside the bounds of Gotham and its police department. As the series progresses, The Joker shows the impact that Batman and his rogue’s gallery have had on the rest of the world, and the ways governments, intelligence agencies, and more nefarious organizations deal with threats of their ilk. Along with a crime novel set in present time, James Tynion, Matthew Rosenberg, and the virtuosic Francesco Francavilla created several flashback comics showing the development of Jim Gordon’s relationship with the Joker over the years, and how it effected his family life and career almost acting as a “Year One” for Gordon as Francavilla’s art style shifts based on the era the story is set in. Plus most issues of Joker feature colorful backup stories with Harper Row trying to bring Joker’s newest ally Punchline to justice in and out of prison from Tynion, Sam Johns, Sweeney Boo, Rosi Kampe, and others.

7. Kane and Able (Image)

Kane and Able is a dual-cartoonist anthology featuring work by British cartoonists Shaky Kane and Krent Able. Kane’s stories flow together in a Jack Kirby-meets-David Lynch kind of way blurring the lines between fiction and metafiction, reality and unreality while also acting as an opportunity for him to draw cool things like dinosaurs, space women, aliens, the King of Comics, and even himself. Able’s stories have more of a grindhouse, body horror quality to him as a chainsaw-wielding Bear Fur battles a boom box wielding cockroach woman, who flesh bonds everyone in a listless, major city. Both creators have delightful, distinctive styles and put their own spin on genres like sci-fi, exploitation, and superhero. Kane and Able is free-flowing, clever, and most of all, fun and is tailor made for the larger page format of treasury editions.

6. Static Season One (DC/Milestone)

As far as pure visuals go, Static Season One by Vita Ayala, Nikolas Draper-Ivey, and ChrisCross was easily one of the best looking books on the stands in 2021. This was in addition to reinventing the iconic Black superhero through the lens of contemporary social movements, like Black Lives Matter and protests against police brutality in summer of 2020. Static Season One doesn’t merely pay homage to the classic Milestone series, but brings it into 2021 with fight sequences straight out of the best shonen manga and a three dimensional supporting cast that holistically explore the Black experience in the United States while also being a coming of age and superhero origin tale. Draper-Ivey’s character designs are sleek as hell, and his high energy approach to color palette adds intensity to fight and chase scenes. I’m excited to see what the talented creative duo of Ayala and Nikolas Draper-Ivey bring to Static’s journey as Season One wraps up and Season Two (hopefully) begins in 2022.

5. Renegade Rule (Dark Horse)

Renegade Rule is an original graphic novel from Ben Kahn, Rachel Silverstein, and Sam Beck that is a perfect fusion of a sports manga and a queer romance story set in the world of competitive video games. Even if you’re like me and have only attempted to play Overwatch a single time, Renegade Rule and its world are quite accessible via things like hypercompetitiveness, sexual tension, and breathtaking fight choreography. The in-game sequences are almost like musical numbers and use shooting, sniping, and various acrobatics to make characters’ unspoken thoughts real. Renegade Rule is like if your favorite sports movie and romantic comedy had a gay baby who loved kicking ass at video games, and I pumped my fist every time the Manhattan Mist overcame adversity or overwhelming odds and smiled when certain characters ended up with each other…

4. Echolands (Image)

After a four year absence from interior art, co-writer/artist J.H. Williams III didn’t mess around with Echolands, a love letter to both genre fiction and double page spreads. Done in collaboration with co-writer Haden Blackman and colorist Dave Stewart, Echolands is an epic fantasy quest loaded up with all kinds of genres and art styles leaking off the page and was one of the most immersive comics I read in 2021. It has a sprawling cast and world, but Blackman and Williams know when to slow down and dig into Hope Redhood and her allies and antagonists’ motivations and when to drop in a multi-page underwater or underground chase sequence. With its unique landscape layouts and all the details in J.H. Williams and Stewart’s visuals, Echolands is definitely a book worth picking up in physical format and has backmatter that both humorously and seriously adds to the worldbuilding.

3. DC Pride (DC)

In honor of Pride Month, DC Comics put some of its most talented LGBTQ+ creators on its most iconic LGBTQ+ characters in a super-sized celebration of overcoming adversity, being yourself, and loving whoever you want to love. DC Pride covered a spectrum of sexual and gender identities from a fast-paced date night story featuring the non-binary Flash, Jess Chambers, to James Tynion and Trung Le Nguyen’s fairy tale influenced story of Batwoman’s younger days and even the first appearance of transgender superhero Dreamer (From the Supergirl TV show) in the comics. Depending on the character or creative team, the different stories could be adventurous and flirtatious, heartfelt and emotional, or a bit of both. This book shows that superhero comics have come a long way since the stereotypes of the 1980s and 1990s, but there’s still room for improvement as many of the characters featured in this anthology are relegated to backup stories or are supporting cast members of cisgender, heterosexual heroes.

2. Barbalien: Red Planet (Dark Horse)

Barbalien: Red Planet is a masterfully crafted, queer rage infused superhero/sci-fi comic from Jeff Lemire, Tate Brombal, Gabriel Walta, and Jordie Bellaire. It understands subtext is for cowards and draws parallels between Barbalien coming out as gay and a Martian with his new friend/potential lover Miguel, who is a Latino activist fighting for the US government to do something about the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. Barbalien: Red Planet pays homage to the Black and Latinx activists who fought for queer liberation and is also an emotionally honest character study for Barbalien, who is easily my favorite character in the Black Hammer universe. Lemire, Brombal, and Walta use the superhero and sword and planet genres to explore the conflict between queer folks and power structures as Barbalien struggles with trying to fit into Spiral City as a white cop or being his true, gay Martian self. And to get personal for a second, Barbalien: Red Planet inspired me to speak out against my city’s Pride organization’s open support of police even though it led to me resigning as chairperson of my work’s LGBTQ+ employee affinity group. It’s both a damn good superhero book and a story that had a huge impact on my life in 2020-2021.

1. Die (Image)

My favorite comic of 2021 was Die by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans that wrapped up with the mother of all quest arcs. But beyond having cool fantasy landscapes and wrapping up each party member’s arc, Die nailed the importance of stories, whether games, comics, films, prose, TV shows etc., to change how we view and interact with the world in both a heightened and realistic manner. Most of the realism came in Die #20 where the main characters escape the world of the game into our reality with the COVID-19 pandemic in full swing and have emotional reunions with loved ones or just hang out by themselves. However, the final arc of Die also is full of existential nightmares courtesy of Hans’ visuals as well as awakenings and self-realization, especially in Die #19 where Ash comes out as non-binary and discusses how games and fiction shaped their identity. The final issues of Die is a double-edged look at the power of narrative and games to shape us done in both glorious and surprisingly intimate fashion, and I felt I really knew Ash, Matt, Angela, Isabelle, Matt, Chuck, and Sol in the end.

Honorable Mentions: Casual Fling (AWA), Nightwing (DC), Made in Korea (Image), Barbaric (Vault), Superman and the Authority (DC), Catwoman: Lonely City (DC/Black Label)

Alice in Leatherland’s Iolanda Zanfardino Returns with Hecate’s Will

Hecate devoted her life to changing the world through art, but she despairs that it’s all for nothing. When she commits to one last try with her most ambitious and heartfelt street-art experiment yet, its impact may change everything.

Written and illustrated by Alice in Leatherland’s Iolanda Zanfardino, Hecate’s Will is a new comic book mini-series launching in November 2021 from Black Mask Studios. Iolanda sets her sights on a street-smart adventure that celebrates outsider-art, diverse found family, and never giving up on your dreams.

In Hecate’s Will, we meet legendary NYC graffiti artist Hecate, who has decided to retire and abandon her mission of changing the world through art–but, before she quits, she’s going to create one final street-art experience: a graffiti scavenger hunt through the streets of Manhattan that will lead her fans to a final message and artistic testament.

As her street-art experiment catches fire with young NYC artists and activists, Hecate’s best friend ropes her into working on a revival of the musical ‘RENT’ by a joyous ensemble of LGBTQIA+ artists who remind her how art brings people together, challenging all of Hecate’s expectations and assumptions. But will it be enough to inspire Hecate to renew her convictions and remain true to her artistic self?

White, Alice in Leatherland, and Godkiller: Tomorrow’s Ashes All Get New Printings

Black Mask Studios has announced that White #2 and #1 (Second Printing), Alice in Leatherland #1 (Second Printing), and Godkiller: Tomorrow’s Ashes #2 and #1 (Second Printing) have ALL sold out at the distributor level! 

Check out the new covers for Alice in Leatherland #1 (Third Printing) by Elisa Romboli, White #1 (Third Printing) and #2 (Second Printing) by Khary Randolph, and Godkiller: Tomorrow’s Ashes #1 (Third Printing) and #2 (Second Printing) by Anna Muckcracker.

Review: Alice in Leatherland #3

Alice in Leatherland #3

Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli’s Alice in Leatherland continues its queering of the fairy tale in its third issue as Alice continues to quest for true love (and also write a children’s book) while being employed in a San Francisco sex shop fittingly called Leatherland. Alice in Leatherland #3 dives head-first into the world of online dating with Alice’s new friends coaching her in etiquette, taking boudoir-ready pictures of her, and offering her a safety valve in case things go badly. And, unfortunately, they do with Alice immediately swiping on Robin, her friend and former artistic collaborator, who has kind of ghosted her since moving to San Francisco.

Featuring Romboli’s expressive cartooning and storybook asides that use a children’s book framing device to explore Alice in Leatherland’s themes and its protagonist’s feelings, Alice in Leatherland #3 also hurls Alice headlong into discovering what she wants out of relationships and sex. There’s almost a Goldilocks vibe to the two women that she meets up with in this book with the first one spending her time bragging about her workout routine and occasionally body-shaming Alice before opening a closet of copyright friendly Bad Dragon strap-on’s, and the other one focusing on her own pleasure instead of Alice’s. It’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing them in any future issues, and the situations are relatable to anyone entering the dating world and finding folks, who are mostly decent, but don’t have the energy that matches yours. They also provide a chance for Elisa Romboli to flex her comedy chops capturing Alice’s reactions to the dildos.

That moment is one of many memorable reaction shots drawn by her throughout the issue with Alice’s manager’s face when she tries to organize the porn DVDs into a “happy ending” category after bombing a presentation taking the cake. Zanfardino and Romboli mine a lot of humor out of a wholesome, hopeful woman working at a sex shop that she still sees as an alien planet, but she’s never the butt of the joke. Alice also exhibits a lot of incremental growth in this issue building off Alice in Leatherland #2 where she met some friendly bears at a Pride parade and started to bond and connect with her roommates instead of pining for Robin. The growth this time comes in knowing her own body and what gives her pleasure as she trades in two unsatisfying hook-ups for one of her employer’s wares, and Elisa Romboli nails the literally orgasmic euphoria she feels towards the end of the comic. Alice might not have found a princess in this issue, but she’s definitely increased her self-love.

Alice in Leatherland #3 is another excellent chapter in this stylized romance story that isn’t afraid to get messy and real about relationships while riffing off traditional fairy tale tropes in both the character names and the children’s book that Alice is writing in-story and using to process her feelings. I can definitely start to see the destination, but the fun of this book is watching Alice find herself and community in her new gayborhood as well as seeing the creative synergy of Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli evolve through the series.

Story: Iolanda Zanfardino Art: Elisa Romboli
Story: 8.6 Art: 9.0 Overall: 8.8 Recommendation: Buy

Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Ramboli provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review


Purchase: Zeus ComicsTFAW

Graphic Policy’s Top Comic Picks this Week!

MINAMATA STORY

Wednesdays (and now Tuesdays) are new comic book day! Each week hundreds of comics are released, and that can be pretty daunting to go over and choose what to buy. That’s where we come in

Each week our contributors choose what they can’t wait to read this week or just sounds interesting. In other words, this is what we’re looking forward to and think you should be taking a look at!

Find out what folks think below, and what comics you should be looking out for this week.

Alice in Leatherland #3 (Black Mask Studios) – The sex-positive fantasy series has been intriguing so far and we want to read more and see more, of this type of storytelling.

Bunny Mask #1 (AfterShock) – A new horror series about an unnatural killer unleashed on the world after thousands of years of being locked away.

Cherry Blackbird #1 (Scout Comics/Black Caravan) – A rocker must nab demons for the devil or she’s doomed when she turns 27.

Eve #2 (BOOM! Studios) – The first issue was fantastic and we’re excited to see where this apocalytpic story goes.

Far Sector #12 (DC Comics/DC’s Young Animal) – The series wraps up and we seriously have no idea where it’s going to go.

Freak Snow #1 (Behemoth) – A frozen apocalyptic tale and lets face it, we’re suckers for those.

Girl From the Sea (Scholastic Graphix) – The concept sounds like Splash with an LGBT spin for younger readers.

The Good Asian #2 (Image Comics) – The Chinatown noir had an amazing first issue not just delivering a solid detective story but also confronting racism, social issues, and American history head on.

The Joker #4 (DC Comics) – The series has exceeded our expectations with a story not about the Joker but the man he tortured and wants to close that chapter of his life, James Gordon. There’s a Moby Dick vibe to the series that’s intriguing.

Maniac of New York #5 (AfterShock) – We’ve loved this series that brings the slasher concept to comics.

Miles Morales: Shock Waves (Scholastic Graphix) – A middle-grade story about Miles Morales, aka Spider-Man!

Minamata Story (Stone Bridge Press) – The story of “Minamata disease,” a debilitating and sometimes fatal condition caused by the Chisso chemical factory’s careless release of methylmercury into the waters of the coastal community of Minamata in southern Japan. Sounds like fantastic graphic journalism/history.

Six Sidekicks of Trigger Keaton #1 (Image Comics) – The world’s most unlikable action star has been found dead, and his previous TV sidekicks are looking to solve the mystery. The concepts sounds like a lot of fun to us.

Web of Spider-Man #1 (Marvel) – The description makes the series sound like it’s geared toward younger readers and we’re totally fine, and excited, about that.

Alice in Leatherland #1 Sells Out and Gets a New Printing and New Cover by Elisa Romboli

Black Mask Studios has announced that Alice in Leatherland #1 has sold out at the distributor level! The second printing features a brand new cover by series co-creator Elisa Romboli!

After her fairytale fantasy life is destroyed by her girlfriend’s infidelity, sheltered Alice heads to raucous San Francisco on a journey of sexual awakening, community building, and self-discovery.

Created by real-life couple Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli while they were in pandemic lockdown together, Alice in Leatherland is a new comic book mini-series that’s a diverse sex comedy and a very modern romantic comedy all in one, celebrating its diverse ensemble’s joys, kinks, and loves.

In Alice in Leatherland, Alice, a young writer of children’s story books, is hurtled out of her fairytale-like life when she discovers her girlfriend has been cheating on her! Charmingly defiant, she leaves her small forest town and leaps into a new adventure to seek love (and find herself) in the fast life of San Francisco. There, her concept of pure, magical love will be completely overturned–but her biggest challenge won’t be reckoning with other people’s sexual drive, it’ll be getting a grip on her own!

Alice in Leatherland #1 2nd printing

Preview: Alice in Leatherland #1

Alice in Leatherland #1

(W) Iolanda Zanfardino (A/CA) Elisa Romboli
In Shops: Apr 21, 2021
SRP: $3.99

Alice, a young writer of children’s story books, is hurtled out of her fairytale-like life when she discovers her girlfriend has been cheating on her!

Charmingly defiant, she leaves her small forest town and leaps into a new adventure to seek love (and find herself) in the fast life of San Francisco. There, her concept of pure, magical love will be completely overturnedher biggest challenge won’t be reckoning with other people’s sexual drive, it’ll be getting a grip on her own!

From your new favorite writer and artist team of Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli, Alice In Leatherland is a comedy about sex and so, inevitably, about every other aspect of life, too.

Alice in Leatherland #1

Iolanda Zanfardino & Elisa Romboli Deliver Modern Romance and Bawdy Sex in Alice in Leatherland

After her fairytale fantasy life is destroyed by her girlfriend’s infidelity, sheltered Alice heads to raucous San Francisco on a journey of sexual awakening, community building, and self-discovery.  

Created by real-life couple Iolanda Zanfardino (writer) and Elisa Romboli (artist) while they were in pandemic lockdown together, Alice in Leatherland is a new comic book mini-series launching in April 2021 from Black Mask Studios.

In Alice in Leatherland, Alice, a young writer of children’s storybooks, is hurtled out of her fairytale-like life when she discovers her girlfriend has been cheating on her! Charmingly defiant, she leaves her small forest town and leaps into a new adventure to seek love (and find herself) in the fast life of San Francisco. There, her concept of pure, magical love will be completely overturned–but her biggest challenge won’t be reckoning with other people’s sexual drive, it’ll be getting a grip on her own!  From your new favorite writer and artist team of Iolanda Zanfardino and Elisa Romboli, Alice In Leatherland is a comedy about sex and so, inevitably, about every other aspect of life, too.