It’s been five years since I last attended Baltimore Comic-Con and 10 years since I attended my first Baltimore Comic-Con — and to see how much Marc Nathan and his crew have grown the event is astounding.
As much as I would love to photograph every creator in attendance, I lack the organization and time to effectively to do that. As it is, there are people I intended to photograph or thought that I had- -but some combination of factors ended in failure in some instances (Carla Speed McNeil, Seth Kushner, Dean Haspiel, Barry Kitson, Ivan Brandon, Craig Rousseau and Mark Morales, forgive me).
My thanks to the creators who allowed me to photograph them.
While in Baltimore to attend Baltimore Comic-Con 2013, while I had some pre-con free time on Friday, I decided to visit the pop culture museum, Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. The museum, which is just down the street from the Baltimore Convention Center at Camden Station (across from Camden Yards), is owned by Diamond Comics Distributors President/CEO Steve Geppi. A majority of the museum’s holdings are from Geppi’s private collection.
In recognition of the con this weekend, admission is half off for all Baltimore Comic Con 2013 attendees on September 7-8, 2013. What follows is a series of photos I took while visiting. The collection is vast and varied–and my cell phone camera photos do not do the 16,000-square-foot pop culture museum justice.
I had just learned about the hate crime-related murder of Dwayne Jones in Jamaica when writer Steve Orlando contacted me about his Kickstarter campaign for Virgil, a crime graphic novel partially aimed at shining a light on anti-gay violence in that country. So his request for an interview was an easy one to grant. Orlando’s Kickstarter, with a goal of $15,000 and an end date of Sept. 11, aims to tell the story of Virgil, an outed cop fighting “his way across Jamaica to save his man and get revenge.” Orlando has also posted a preview of the book.
Tim O’Shea: I know Archie’s Kevin Keller partially inspired Virgil. But I am curious, how did you first learn about anti-gay violence in Jamaica?
Steve Orlando: If you’re going to fight back against the man, you’ve got to go where he lives!
But seriously, research! Once I decided to do a book with a gay couple fighting back against heterosexists and violent homophobes, I consulted Human Rights Watch reports. Originally I planned on setting the book in Africa, also the home of numerous anti-gay atrocities, but the dichotomy of Jamaica was much stronger to me. Jamaica is often seen as a vacation paradise, but for so many residents there that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Have you ever received an unexpected gift that made you instantly happy? That’s how I felt in late April when Dark Horse announced Itty Bitty Hellboy, a five-issue all-ages miniseries by Art Baltazar and Franco (known for their Eisner Award-winning run on DC’s Tiny Titans and, more recently, Superman Family Adventures). Ahead of the comic’s debut on Wednesday, I spoke with Art and Franco about their fun-loving Aw Yeah-ification of the Mike Mignola/Hellboy universe.
Tim O’Shea: How hard was it to settle on the Itty Bitty Hellboy title?
Franco: That was pretty easy. Artie takes all the credit for that one. What title would best encapsulate what we wanted to do with the character than make him itty bitty!
Art Baltazar: Yes! We went through a few different adjectives before “Itty Bitty” won our hearts.
In interviews I typically stay away from the “how did you get started in comics” question, but periodically I’ll delve into a question about a book dedication, hopeful for an interesting answer. I was hopeful with good reason with this week’s interview with writer Sam Humphries about the new Dark Horse hardcover collection of Sacrifice, by Humphries and artist Dalton Rose. To learn the death of his father was the push Humphries needed to pursue writing comics was a moment that gave me pause.
In fact, the book itself — about Hector, who through an epileptic seizure departs from modern time and space, back to when the Aztec civilization was in its prime — stopped me in my tracks. Storytelling that maps a psychedelic journey in a coherent and fascinating manner is no easy feat, but Humphries and Rose have accomplished it. Dark Horse’s collection of the self-published series will be released Wednesday.
Tim O’Shea: On a most rudimentary level, let’s talk about the logo design for Sacrifice. Who designed it, [comics designer] Dylan Todd or Dalton Rose?
Sam Humphries: Dylan Todd. Sacrifice largely takes place in the past, but it’s not a stodgy period piece. I wanted the design to reflect a modern sensibility without ignoring the core of the story, which is the Aztec Empire. It was a difficult balance but Dylan killed it. He gave Sacrifice a “face” to people who had never seen the story.
There are certain artists who prove that their work only gets better with each new project and new issue. Such is the case with Nick Dragotta on East of West, his new creator-owned ongoing series with Jonathan Hickman.
I relish any opportunity to interview Dragotta, particularly in the same week that East of West 5#. His ability to lay out some spectacular action scenes continues to be a given in this Image Comics series, but I have also grown to appreciate his ability to develop distinctive architecture as well as engaging, yet more sedate, scenes.
In addition to discussing East of West, Dragotta also brought me up to date on Howtoons, which we talked about in our first interview in 2011. As the father of a kid who loves do-it-yourself activities, I appreciate the involvement of the artist and his wife Ingrid in a project that fosters fun, educational activities for children. To learn he has gotten creator favorites of mine, such as Fred Van Lente (no stranger to educational entertainment), Jeff Parker and Sandy Jarrell involved is just icing on the DIY cake.
Back to East of West, the artist and I also got a chance to (hopefully) satiate Comics Should Be Good’s Greg Burgas’ curiosity regarding the East of West creative process that he broached in a recent essay on reviewing the art in comics. In addition, Dragotta was kind enough to share an unlettered page from East of West #5 as well as unlettered pages from issues 2 and 4. With the first trade (collecting issues 1-5) set for release on Sept. 11, we also discuss its potential impact on audience growth. Full candor: Dragotta blindsided me with his Rob Liefeld fan club confession. Seriously, though, it is refreshing to see a talent such as Dragotta reveling in the opportunity to do creator-owned work.
Artful Daggers, by writers Adam P. Knave and Sean E. Williams and artist Andrew Losq, is visually one of the most distinctive titles Monkeybrain Comics publishes. The series, which portrays a world 50 years after the end of Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, considers the impact of bringing 19th-century technology into medieval times. Or as the creative team puts it succinctly: “Swords, Spies and Science.”
To mark today’s release of Artful Daggers #6, which CBR previewed Tuesday, I reached out to the writing team of Knave and Williams to discuss their universe, where kingdoms have been replaced by corporations. While the focus of the interview is their writing, Losq’s impact on the series is clear, as his collaborators admits they “end up cutting dialogue more often than not, as Andrew’s able to do more with an expression than we can with dialogue.”
Before closing our interview, Knave was happy to chat briefly about his other Monkeybrain ongoing (with co-writer D.J. Kirkbride and artist Nick Brokenshire), Amelia Cole. It’s an especially current topic of discussion given that on Aug. 14 IDW Publishing will release the digital series’ first print collection, Amelia Cole and the Unknown World.
If you’re a fan of Tim Gibson‘s Moth City, you may have been introduced to the work on Gibson’s own site or through its serialization at Thrillbent. Fans of the digital platform are able to consume larger installments of the series in one sitting with comiXology Submit, where Moth City will wrap up its second season on Wednesday, with the digital release of Issue 4.
Set in 1930s China and featuring an interesting mix of characters, Moth City is what comiXology aptly describes as “a story about control — when we lose it, when we gain it, and when others hold it over us.”
To celebrate the release of Moth City #4, Gibson opened up about his murder-mystery series, and the creative process behind it. His storytelling and bio gave me a lot of ground to develop questions, particularly with great lines like, “When he’s not writing or drawing, he spends his time reading Elmore Leonard, Stephen King and Agatha Christie, and ogling the art of David Mazzucchelli.”
Tim O’Shea: The first issue opens with a quote from Lord Byron’s “On Leaving Newstead Abbey.” What prompted you to open with that?
Tim Gibson: Byron is this great figure of masculinity, a soldier and a poet. A romantic who had a very twisted love life. He’s a great parallel to the story’s self-imposed tyrant, Governor McCaw, a man who sees himself in a very idealised light. Newstead Abbey also touches on the failure and decay of a once-grand estate, which helps set up one of the main conflicts of the story, that of the Governor, and his daughter Glitter who lives a life so sheltered she may as well be a possession.
Plus, you know, if you’re going to do a comic with car chases, bio weapons, shoot outs, hurried romance and underground plots, you may as well put a bow tie on it.
Dark Horse has been making a concerted effort over the past year to develop its superhero line, with titles like Ghost, X and The Victories. On Wednesday, the lineup expands further with the launch of the Captain Midnight ongoing series, written by Joshua Williamson and illustrated by Fernando Dagnino.
I can’t help but be excited by the potential appeal for this new series, which throws the World War II scientist-hero into the present day — particularly after Williamson praised James Robinson’s Starman: ”It’s one of the few books that — it made me cry.” My cautious optimism for the series was cemented in the midst of my interview with the writer, when he said of the Dark Horse superhero approach: “There is a subtle way to handle the superhero universe, and that’s what Dark Horse is doing.”
Once you’ve read the interview, be sure to enjoy the preview the publisher offered for Captain Midnight #1, on sale Wednesday.
Tim O’Shea: You leap right into the action with Issue 0, in which Captain Midnight lands in the present day, after just having been in the midst of World War II. What does it say about the character that he wasn’t thrown by being flung into the future?
Joshua Williamson: We knew that we wanted to separate Captain Midnight from other time-lost characters and set up two aspects: 1) He was disappointed by the future; 2) He was not surprised by time travel. Midnight was a genius first and a superhero second.
Midnight is a very interesting character in that he is no-nonsense and has such a black-and-white outlook on the world — very matter-of-fact. We wanted to get that across to our readers quickly in the zero issue and found that was the best way to do it.
With multiple new Monkeybrain Comics titles launching today to mark the digital publisher’s second year, expect Detectobot, the new series by brothers Peter Timony and Bobby Timony (Zuda’s Night Owls), to receive a lot of attention for one word in particular: free. That’s right, the Timony brothers and Monkeybrain are offering the prologue to the new series for free on comiXology, beginning today.
As part of ROBOT 6′s coverage of today’s Monkeybrain announcements, we spoke with the Timony brothers about the development of the their world’s greatest detective, who happens to be a robot, and why they wanted to offer the prologue for free. They also shared some preview pages from Detectobot.
Tim O’Shea: Beyond the natural “Yippie!” response, please describe your reactions when you found out the prologue to Detectobot was going to be available for free on comiXology. Or was that actually your decision to make to a great extent?
Peter Timony: We requested it, and the fine folks at Monkeybrain agreed. We wanted to do a freebie to entice new readers. It’s a lesson we learned from all of our years selling crack.
Writer Anina Bennett and artist Paul Guinan join the Monkeybrain Comics line with today’s digital re-release of first episode of their creator-owned Heartbreakers, which originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents #35 in 1989.
The sci-fi adventure has gathered has gathered a growing following over the years, and as it turns out Monkeybrain Co-Publisher Chris Roberson is one of those longtime fans.
Bennett and Guinan spoke with ROBOT 6 about the history and influence of Heartbreakers, its digital debut, and why they partnered with Monkeybrain. To learn how real-world events helped to change the direction of Heartbreakers makes me even more interested to see how Bennett and Guinan plan to observe the comic’s 25th anniversary next year.
If you’re attending Comic-Con International in San Diego, be sure to visit Bennett and Guinan in Artists Alley at Booth CC-01.
I happen to be a person of faith who also has a sense of humor. As a result, the effort by writer Mark Russell and cartoonist Shannon Wheeler to accurately, yet comically, condense the Bible, God Is Disappointed in You, amused the hell out of me. In Catholic high school, I once offended several people by characterizing a newly unveiled statue of Christ (hands outstretched blessing a crowd) as showing the son of God opting for a “basketball zone defense.”
Fortunately Russell and Wheeler, are far superior at comedy (and religious scholarship) than I have ever been. The book clicked with me from the opening pages. While it will not be released until August, you can preorder it now from Top Shelf.
Tim O’Shea: First question goes to Shannon, thanks to his part of the book dedication. Just to clarify: In the dedication, in which both you and your mom were glad you were not struck by lightning, you also thank Patricia, who survived a lightning hit. I have to hear the story about that.
Shannon Wheeler: My mom manages to be in the middle of all sorts of zeitgeists. Elvis played at her high school. When I was little we went to see Jim Jones preach (before Guyana). She managed to stop by the Koresh compound mid-standoff (she bought me a novelty Frisbee from a roadside vendor). She seems to be at the right place, or wrong place, at the right, or wrong, time. In college she was hit by lightning. It knocked the shoes off her feet and threw her into a ditch. She couldn’t move her legs. A couple of co-eds carried her back to her dorm. The doctor told her to take a warm bath and call back if the feeling didn’t return. Over the next couple hours everything returned to normal. She said it was “tingly” — the same as when your foot falls asleep. She had a circular carbon mark on her side for a bit. Some Native Americans believe that being hit by lightning makes you a shaman. She tells the story like it was no big deal.
If you’re shopping for a gift for that special evil family member or friend, I have the deal for you: The latest and greatest self-help book for supervillains goes on sale today in the form of The Supervillain Field Manual: How to Conquer (Super) Friends and Incinerate People by King Oblivion, who had a little help from ghost writer Matt D. Wilson and illustrator Adam Wallenta.
Because I didn’t trust King enough to give him my my email address, I contacted Wilson to see if he was forced to do the book against his will or simply embarked on the marginally evil project of his own free will. Fortunately, Wilson seemed to have enjoyed himself and was more than willing to share insight on the guidebook to becoming an effective supervillain. He wasn’t all about enabling evil, by the way; toward the end of the interview he shares tips on comics he’s currently enjoying.
Tim O’Shea: Let’s go back to your first self-help supervillain book (2012′s The Supervillain Handbook). How did you come to decide there might be a market for evil-comedy instruction books?
Matt D. Wilson: You’re probably giving me a little too much credit there in terms of business sense. It’s not so much that I thought there was a market; I just kind of felt compelled and figured it’d be a fun thing to do. I actually wrote that first book back in 2009 or so, and it took three-plus years to get it published anywhere.
Jeffrey Brown may have had some fans wondering whether he would be returning to autobiographical comics following his success co-writing the 2012 film Save the Date. But June saw Brown refer to the autobiographical realm with A Matter of Life, a Top Shelf-published examination of three Brown generations: his father, himself and his preschool-age son Oscar. To mark the release of his new book, took some time out to speak with ROBOT 6. Top Shelf is offering a nine-page preview to whet readers’ appetites, so please make sure to check it out after reading the interview.
I particularly enjoyed learning how his autobiographical work is less about catharsis and more about gaining some perspective on the events in his life.
Tim O’Shea: Your wife Jennifer was well aware of the autobiographical nature of much of your work, so she knew going into your marriage that her life would be at least a partially open book that you would share with people. But did she express any concern about featuring your son in your work?
Jeffrey Brown: I think she’s learned to trust my judgement, for the most part. When we first started dating she told me it was on the condition that I didn’t write anything about us. Then she said I could write about us as long as it wasn’t anything personal or about her relationship. Eventually she said I could go ahead and write whatever. With our son she talked to me about being more careful, and I have been, but I think in general I’ve become much more careful about what I’m writing in my autobiographical comics anyway.
Tuesday marks the release of author John David Anderson‘s young-adult novel Sidekicked, which explores the highs and lows of being a middle-schooler who happens to be a superhero sidekick. The lead character Drew has the added challenge that his superhero mentor is “a former legend who now spends more time straddling barstools than fighting crime.” It’s tough enough to be in middle school, but Drew’s abilities (“his hearing, sight, taste, touch, and smell are the most powerful on the planet”) make him the quintessentially oversensitive kid.
Anderson was ready and willing to chat about the challenges of getting inside the head of a middle-school hero.
Tim O’Shea: What’s the key to capturing the tone of middle school in your story, to such a degree it appeals to a middle school audience?
John David Anderson: It’s a balancing act. Middle-school readers struggle with many of the same issues adults do: They have issues with trust, identity, empowerment, relationships. But they have a more limited amount of life experience to draw from so I think the experience is more raw somehow, more intense. Thankfully all of the teens and tweens I know have developed a highly tuned sarcasm that buffers them somewhat from the angst. I try to tap into that humor so that readers can step back and maybe laugh at some of the coming of age junk that they are facing as well. Honestly I’m 38 years old and I’m still coming of age. I’ve just learned to laugh at myself.