Michael May, Author at Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

Mark Smylie returns to the world of Artesia in prose novel

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Mark Smylie is important to comics for a couple of reasons: Not only does he make Artesia, an epic series of lushly drawn and intricately detailed military fantasy comics, but he also created the company Archaia in order to publish the series. He contributed a story to the Mouse Guard: Legends of the Guard anthology and has provided illustrations for collectible card and role-playing games, including the Artesia RPG he designed himself.

Last week, Smylie added to his accomplishments with the release of The Barrow, a prose novel set in the world of Artesia and published by Pyr.

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This weekend, it’s the Locust Moon Comics Festival

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The second annual Locust Moon Comics Festival will be held in Philadelphia, with a larger space than last year’s showand more than double the number of creators. Hosted by Locust Moon Comics, the donation-based event offers no advance tickets; children 13 and under get in free. A portion of all donations will go toward helping the Jack Kirby Museum create a physical location.

Held at The Rotunda in West Philadelphia (4014 Walnut St.), the festival will include workshops and panels with an emphasis on independent and creator-owned comics. Local creators will off course be present, and Philadelphia residents like J.G. Jones (Final Crisis), Robert Woods (36 Lessons in Self-Destruction), James Comey (Donkey Punch) and Box Brown (Everything Dies) are all scheduled to attend. The event also includes guests from outside the city, though, so attendees can expect to see creators like Jim Steranko (Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Farel Dalrymple (Pop Gun War), Chrissie Zullo (Cinderella), Todd Klein (Fables), Dean Haspiel (Billy Dogma), Tom Scioli (Gødland), Michael Kupperman (Tales Designed to Thrizzle), Jay Lynch (Garbage Pail Kids), Kim Deitch (The Boulevard of Broken Dreams) and Ron Wimberly (Prince of Cats).

Some of the artists are offering festival-exclusive prints (like the Robert Woods poster accompanying this post), and Woods is also debuting his new book, 36 Lessons in Self-Destruction, the complete collection of his Depressed Punx minicomics.

Locust Moon also offers a far better standard of convention food with local vendors like Little Baby’s Ice Cream, Tacos Don Memo, Kung Fu Hoagies and Lovers & Madmen Coffee Lounge. While the festival itself takes place on Saturday, events and festivities at Locust Moon Comics will spill across the weekend, including a 36 Lessons release party and a post-festival pancake breakfast. See the festival’s website for more details.

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Villains Month post-mortem with retailer Mike Sterling

superman-bizarroWhen DC Comics announced Villains Month, it got people talking and not always in a good way. For every person saying it was a cool idea, there seemed to be at least one proclaiming it a jump-off point for various series if not the entire New 52. Business as usual for comics fandom.

What was different this time was the additional complaints from retailers about the way DC handled the event. The extra time needed to create the fancy, lenticular covers meant that they had to go into production before DC knew how many copies it needed. And unfortunately, when orders came in, the publisher discovered it had estimated too low, which created problems with meeting demand.

Brian Hibbs wrote about the situation for Comic Book Resources as well as on his own blog, and CBR ran a roundup of general reactions from store owners, but now that Villains Month is behind us, I wanted to get a deep perspective from a retailer on what worked, what didn’t, how readers actually responded with their money, and what lessons could be learned to make similar events less frustrating in the future. To that end, I contacted Mike Sterling, manager of Seth’s Games and Anime/Ralph’s Comic Corner in Ventura, California.

Sterling has been writing on the Internet about comics for longer than most of us. His Progressive Ruin blog has been running since December 2003, combining Sterling’s sense of humor and love of comic book weirdness with sharp observations about the direct market. He manages what used to be called simply Ralph’s Comic Corner, a shop that’s been active since 1980, but was purchased in 2009 by Seth’s Games and Anime. Sterling remains manager while the titular Ralph still handles the old comics business. It was because of his long-standing knowledge of comics retailing and his ability to be equally funny and frank when discussing it that I asked Sterling to talk with me about his experiences with Villains Month.

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Young & Madrigal’s ‘Here We Go!’ celebrates stories and moms

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We’ve featured writer Jesse Young‘s comics a couple of times on Robot 6, first with his and Ha Huy Hoang’s DCU-baseball tale “Sunday at the Park,” and again with “Surprise, Surprise!,” the story he and George Kambadais created about Spider-Man’s interrupted birthday.

In “Here We Go!,” Young and artist Anwar Madrigal pull from a different kind of inspiration than DC and Marvel comics. Based on a lovely drawing by Aleksi Rokka of a mother and son, the team (with letterer Thomas Mauer) puts together a story about a single mom who encourages her child through imaginary adventures that they create together. It’s a lovely tribute, not only to motherhood but to storytelling. And although it features aliens, dinosaurs and pirate monkeys, it has an emotional kick at the end.

Check out the first seven pages below, then hit Young’s website for the rest.

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Neil Kleid prepares to weave his ‘Tapestry’

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My original intention was to file this under “What Could Have Been,” but unlike a lot of failed-pitch stories, Neil Kleid’s (BrownsvilleThe Big KahnTapestry appears to be getting a happy ending.

The writer unveiled the concept on his blog, where he called it “a work in progress that may never come.” He wrote, “Years ago, I had an idea for an all ages fantasy story called The Secret Life of Wally Meiers — a Harry Potter-meets-Quantum Leap inspired tale about a kid recruited into being a hero that would save all heroes from a madman with designs on ending a universe of stories. It was a father-son story (as most of mine tend to be; make of that what you will) with cool things like Jewish robots, laser fitted space sharks and included such supporting characters as Odysseus, Moses and Indiana Jones.” Consider me hooked.

He revealed that the title. plot and artists have changed over time (the concept art in this post is by super-talented Amy Pearson, who sadly is no longer part of the project), but that he never lost the desire to tell the story. Kleid even had a format picked out: four self-contained volumes that combine to tell a larger story.

The current incarnation is called Tapestry, and tells the story of a young boy who “reluctantly joins a wisecracking, cigar-smoking pigeon” as he trains to be a hero and looks for his long-missing father. “With the help of a fairy cleric, a dying world’s last journalist, an eager vampire slayer and a Jewish robot,” Kleid teases, “our reality’s would-be savior battles mad super villains, shape-shifting demons, feline corporations and the armies of the dead while learning to save existence by depending on the strength of his friendships.”

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Hulk statue draws ‘largest turnout at the library ever’ [UPDATED]

hulklibraryThe Northlake Public Library in suburban Chicago unveiled its Hulk statue earlier this month to a crowd of more than 300. ^Trustee Tom Mukite, who joined the board specifically to spearhead the statue campaign, called the event the “largest turnout at the library ever.”

Mukite and the other trustees launched an Indiegogo campaign in April to make improvements to the library that included the addition of a Hulk statue to help attract visitors. According to the campaign’s page, “Today’s libraries are celebrating creativity, entertainment and life long learning, and they are doing it with technology and popular materials including graphic novels.” It continued, “We want to smash [libraries’] stuffy reputation with a 9 foot tall Incredible Hulk Statue.” In explaining why the Hulk is an appropriate decoration for the library, the campaign said, “Just as Dr. Bruce Banner transforms into the Hulk, we want our library community members to make their own personal transformations through books, programs, and awesome new equipment. […] The project will show off the fun side of the library and get the community talking. The Hulk will force patrons to look at the library in a whole new way.”

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‘The Devastator’ #8 shows what’s so great about crossovers

Every good crossover needs a hologram cover

Every good crossover needs a hologram cover

The Devastator #8: “Crossovers”
By Various Writers and Artists
Edited by Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows

People love crossovers. That’s not news, but I’ve never stopped and wondered why that is. What exactly is so cool about someone from Universe X running into someone from Universe Y? Or even people from different corners of the same universe meeting each other? And why do some crossovers work really well when others are so disappointing? The most recent issue of the humor anthology The Devastator explores crossovers in a way that’s of course funny, but also helps me understand what makes a great one, and why.

Devastator #8 features comics and pin-ups by a lot of great artists, as well as short stories, essays, infographics and epic poetry. On one level, it’s fun simply to read through and giggle at Box Brown’s Punisher/New Yorker mash-up or spot the references in Jim Rugg’s cover. But the more I read, the more I realized that The Devastator was scratching a crossover itch in a way that’s more satisfying than most of the actual crossovers it’s parodying.

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Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc. branches out into webcomics

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Edgar Rice Burroughs Inc., the company founded by the creator of Tarzan and still run by his family, has begun publishing webcomics based on six of the author’s most famous creations. Roy Thomas and Tom Grindberg (who have been producing the Tarzan comic strips since 2012) continue creating new stories featuring the ape man, while Chuck Dixon and Tom Lyle explore the Earth’s Core world of Pellucidar. Writer Martin Powell is joined by four different artists on the remaining series: Carson of Venus (with Thomas Floyd and Diana Leto), The Eternal Savage (with Steven E. Gordon), The Cave Girl (with Diana Leto), and The War Chief (with Nik Poliwko).

The ERB Inc. website has samples of each series for free, and readers can then subscribe to all six for $1.99 a month. Each series updates weekly, so that’s about 24 pages for just $2; a great deal.

I had some questions about the initiative, so I contacted Powell, who was extremely helpful. For one thing, these webcomics don’t affect Dark Horse, which still holds the license for printed Tarzan comics. He also explained why there’s no series for John Carter: “I originally auditioned for John Carter of Mars, but Disney/Marvel still has a hold on it. Still, ERB Inc. was apparently impressed enough that they offered me Carson of Venus and allowed me to assemble my own art team, which I’ve done for my other four ERB comic strips as well. So, you could say in a sense that I am Carson … we both aimed at Mars and ended up on Venus!”

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David Lasky draws ‘The Ultimate Batman Comic’

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David Lasky (Urban HipsterDon’t Forget This Song) created a strip he calls “The Ultimate Batman Comic,” and he’s pretty much right. If Bill Finger and Bob Kane had known then what we know now, Detective Comics #27 would’ve been 14 panels long — all of which you can read on Lasky’s Flickr account.

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Bart Sears’ posters draw connection between comics and sports

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I’ve always been interested in the intersection between comics and sports. The stereotypical comics-reading nerd isn’t much of an athletics buff, but there are many, many people who enjoy both. Even those who don’t can recognize that comics and sports seem to scratch similar itches for their fans by offering bottomless rabbit holes of involvement. Final Four brackets and fantasy football leagues require and celebrate the same kind of obsessive knowledge that comics fans enjoy sharing and discussing.

Ron Marz is a great example of a combination comics/sports aficionado: His Twitter stream is just as likely to discuss the Mets as Metropolis, and he’s even written a sports comic, The Protectorscreated by Chicago Bears defensive lineman Israel Idonije and drawn by Bart Sears.

It was also Marz who pointed me toward the NFL Heroes posters below, also drawn by Sears, featuring “rocket-armed quarterback” Jay Cutler, “defensive dominator” Julius Peppers, and “legendary linebacker” Brian Urlacher. They’re available from Idonije’s Athleta Comics.

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Lee and Boultwood’s Viking comic landed too late for the raid

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Like with the pulp space pitch the other day, Tony Lee has shared several other failed pitches on his Twitter feed (#ForgottenPitch). I’ll leave most of them for you to discover yourself (there are lots of wonderful ideas on show), but Shieldmaiden caught my eye for a couple of reasons: First, it would have been drawn by Dan Boultwood, creator of the current series It Came! that I’m enjoying so very much. And second, Vikings.

Sadly, it was the Vikings that killed the comic before it began. Lee pitched the idea in 2011, the year that Vertigo canceled Brian Wood’s Northlanders. Ivan Brandon’s Image series Viking had ended prematurely the year before after only one story arc. So, when Lee was told that no one wanted new Viking comics, publishers had some evidence to back that up.

Still, Lee and Boultwood had a different take from the realistic comics by Wood and Brandon. Shieldmaiden would have included a mythological element as a young woman led her clan in battle against the gods during Ragnarok. That, plus Boultwood’s art, makes me wish it could have found a home.

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Tony Lee shares a pulp space pitch that never took off

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A lot of these “What Could Have Been” posts are focused on pitches for corporate-owned characters. It’s easy to imagine DC Comics or Marvel looking at those and saying, “Yeah, no, it looks great, but that’s not the direction we want to go in.” But very often creator-owned ideas don’t go anywhere either, for many many reasons.

Tony Lee (2000 ADDoctor Who) shared one of those on Twitter not too long ago: an idea for a pulp space adventure that he and artist Stefano Martino created after they worked together on their DC/Zuda project Where Evils Dare. The main character was named Crash Landing, and Martino’s pinup for it evokes a strong Flash Gordon feel. Lee wrote that it was “basically Flash Gordon meets The Rocketeer via Warlord of Mars,” but it never happened because Martino was “lured away by Europe.”

Since then, Martino has returned to American comics, penciling George R.R. Martin’s Doorways for IDW Publishing and even an issue of Dynamite Entertainment’s Warlord of Mars, so it would be cool to see if he and Lee could do something like Crash Landing. There’s a lamentable lack of pulp space comics these days (Christopher Mills and Gene Gonzales’ Perils on Planet X being one of the few I know).

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Bobby Timony shares his Wonder Twins pitch

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Wonder Twins Zan and Jayna have made a few appearances since the cancellation of the Super Friends TV show and comic book in the early ’80s. Robert Washington III and Tom Morgan added them to Captain Atom’s Justice League in Extreme Justice, they showed up on Smallville, and most recently they popped in to audition as Beast Boy’s replacement on Teen Titans Go!.

If Bobby Timony (The Night Owls) had had his way, they would’ve also appeared in a short story he pitched to DC Comic. He doesn’t say exactly what it was for and why it didn’t get picked up, but he recently shared the story on his blog, with the first four pages colored by Jordie Bellaire. Check out part of “Wonder Twins” below, and visit Timony’s blog for the rest.

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Criterion enlists comics artists to illustrate ‘Zatoichi’ box set

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Boutique home video distributor Criterion commissioned Samuel Hiti (Los Tiempos FinalesDeath-Day) and a list of other great comics artists to create artwork for the individual films in the company’s box set for the long-running Zatoichi series starring Shintaro Katsu as a blind, but incredibly quick and accurate swordsman. Hiti designed the cover for Zatoichi the Fugitive, the fourth in the series.

Twenty-five Zatoichi films were produced between 1962 and 1973, making it the longest-running action series in Japanese history. There was also a four-season TV series in the late ’70s. The Criterion box set collects those first 25 feature films in one package for the first time, but doesn’t include 1989’s Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman, written and directed by Shintaro Katsu himself.

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Phil Hester and Tyler Walpole discuss new series ‘Dropout’

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Monkeybrain Comics announced and released five new titles last month at Comic-Con International, including Phil Hester and Tyler Walpole’s Dropout. Hester and Walpole couldn’t be at the convention, but were willing to talk with me not only about the new series, but their collaboration in general, including a personal favorite of mine: their 2005 canceled-too-soon series Stronghold.

Dropout is available for purchase from Monkeybrain through comiXology. Tim O’Shea recently reviewed it for Robot 6.

Michael May: You guys worked together before on Stronghold. How did you meet and what drew you toward wanting to work together?

Tyler Walpole: Phil and I are both from Iowa and when I was in high school he was one of the only professional comic book artists I had met in person (at a little comic book show at a local mall). I always liked him as an artist, but when I read his comic, The Coffin, I was blown away with his writing! So when he expressed interest in working with me, I jumped at the chance.

Phil Hester: I met Tyler when he was just a kid, and I mean really just a kid. He and Andy Brase were kicking around the Iowa comics scene as teens and I could tell both guys were going to go places. I guess I’ve always been looking for something to work on with Tyler and when Stronghold popped up, I knew he’d be right for it.

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