Interview Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources
Priya’s Shakti is a comic that aims to change the world, or at least, one part of it.
The creation of writer Ram Devenini and artist Dan Goldman, Priya’s Shakti uses elements of Indian religion and mythology to take on the difficult topic of rape and send a strong message that it’s a crime and the victim is not to be blamed for it. The comic tells the story of a rape survivor who’s cast out by her family, a situation that angers the gods; the resolution comes with a call to action.
The comic is available for free on comiXology and debuts in print this week at the Mumbai Film and Comics Convention. However, it’s not limited by the usual distribution structures: As Devenini explains to ROBOT 6, the creators have partnered with the Indian charitable trust Apne Aap Women Worldwide to get the title out to girls in classrooms and communities far from comics shops. They also painted street murals in Mumbai that include an augmented reality feature; when viewed with a smart phone, parts of the murals are animated.
I spoke with Devenini and Goldman about making the comic, the special features, and how they plan to spread the word.
Zak Sally’s Recidivist IV was one of the most difficult comics I’ve ever read. I don’t mean that in an aesthetic or emotional or abstract sense. I mean it was physically difficult to read, as I frequently had to hold the comic at odd angles, or directly up against sunlight to be able to read certain sentences.
That’s entirely intentional. Sally uses bright metallic inks, intricate, overlapping patterns and more to make the type difficult to discern, if not as downright enigmatic as the accompanying images. Containing short stories (although they feel more like essays or simple declarations at times) about characters at life-altering crossroads, and accompanied with a CD of drone music, Recidivist IV is generally what you thinks of when you hear the phrase “a challenging work.” As he noted on his blog, it certainly isn’t a “passive, easy reading experience.”
It might also be one of the best comics of 2014, smart and elegant and breathtaking, a comic that forces you to engage with it but rewards you with its tightrope act as the reading experience and the content cohere into a breathtaking whole.
On one level, Eric Orchard’s Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch is a classic adventure tale about a girl who has to go find the witch who turned her parents into kangaroo rats, in order to undo the spell. The art is reminiscent of children’s fantasy tales, and Maddy meets a fanciful assortment of friends and foes along the way. However, after reading Orchard’s recent tweets about his experiences with mental illness, I realized there are many layers to this story.
I asked Orchard if he would discuss the way his experiences with mental disorders — his mother’s schizophrenia and his own depression and anxiety — have influenced his storytelling.
Brigid Alverson: How has mental illness affected your life?
Eric Orchard: My mother always suffered terribly from schizophrenia, but when my father died, when I was 2, she fell apart. Most of my childhood was my mother struggling to keep herself together. In retrospect it seems like a heroic feat; even though I suffered somewhat, she overcame things that I find astounding. She had reserves of strength and compassion that saw us through. She was battling fears and terrifying visions so that I could have some kind of normal life. Really, there was only so much she could do. What I recall most was the antipsychotics causing her to sleep most of the day. With no siblings or father, I was alone a lot. These were times I started writing and drawing. I had hours to tell elaborate stories and build worlds. I was taught to read very young by an aunt, and that also helped.
Jonathan Baylis recently published the seventh issue of his annual minicomic So Buttons, a collection of short, autobiographical stories, written by Baylis and illustrated by a variety of artists. They range from lighthearted anecdotes about his years in the comics and entertainment business (he started an internship at Marvel the day Jack Kirby died, and later worked for Valiant and Topps) to heartfelt stories about discovering beauty, confronting death and fighting his inner demons.
I first met Baylis (as he correctly remembers in this interview) last year a the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, although I was reading So Buttons before that. We have kept in touch since then, and it’s always a pleasure to run into him at a show. When he told me that So Buttons #7 was about to go live on comiXology, it seemed like an opportune moment for an interview about his work and his experiences as a minicomics creator. He not only answered my questions with gusto, he sent along a ton of art and a full-length So Buttons story about an encounter with John Romita Sr. (below).
After lifetimes spent conquering alien species, what happens when a race of humanoid bugs finds itself about to die out, and is forced to work with others to survive? That’s part of the premise of Colonial Souls by Nolan T Jones and Andrew MacLean, a four-issue science fiction series Jones is self-publishing digitally.
The first issue arrived earlier this month, and the second went live this morning on the comics’ website (where you can also find previews of both issues). In addition to buying single issues, you can also get a price break by opting to purchase a subscription to the full series.
I spoke with Nolan about the comic, its distribution method and his other projects, including the role-playing website roll20.net.
Debuting in September 1984, the hugely popular cartoon was developed by World Events Productions, a small television production company based in St. Louis, Missouri. Several WEP executives had gone to a licensing convention and saw three Japanese shows they thought would do well in the United States. They requested the master tapes of all three, but Toei Company sent the wrong tapes for one of them, interpreting the request for the “one with the lion” as Beast King GoLion, although the WEP team had actually meant a different show. Ted Koplar, president and CEO of WEP, liked what he saw, recalling, “There was a human side that grabbed me.” Indeed, it became the most popular Voltron cartoon, Lion Force Voltron.
Last month, Viz Media released Voltron: From Days of Long Ago, a 30th anniversary commemorative book that includes a behind-the-scenes history of the show, photos of the many Voltron toys, and a guidebook to the characters and storylines. I spoke with Traci Todd, senior editor for children’s publishing at Viz and a huge Voltron fan herself, and Beth Kawasaki, senior editorial director, about went into the making of the book.
I spoke with the former Muppet Show cartoonist about his current projects — a return to BOOM! Studios with The Musical Monsters of Turkey Hollow and his creator-owned Abigail and the Snowman – what he likes about SPX, and what awesome comics he found at show. He came up with a doozie!
Brigid Alverson: Why are you here at SPX?
Roger Langridge: SPX is the first American convention I ever came to, in 2000.
What book were you debuting there?
I wasn’t! I was in the country with my wife, and we were visiting New York together, and we thought we would work in a trip to SPX while we were here. We came just to see it and to check it out and see what it was like. I was at that point working on Fred the Clown as a webcomic, and I showed it around to a few people, and it really fired me up to do self-publishing. The next year I was planning to debut Fred the Clown at SPX 2001, and of course that’s the one that was canceled because of 9/11. But that got me self-publishing, which is pretty much why I have a career today, I think.
Writer Andres Salazar puts a cool spin on the supernatural Western genre in Pariah, Missouri: The town itself anchors the book — Salazar calls it the “main character” — and he uses it as a vantage point to watch the comings and goings of an amazingly varied cast of characters, some with supernatural powers. He and artist Jose Pescador lay out the territory in Book 1, and assemble a sort of 19th-century Mod Squad to fight the forces of evil.
Salazar crowdfunded the first volume of Pariah, Missouri, on Kickstarter, and Diamond Comic Distributors picked it up for July Previews — in fact, it was a Staff Pick—and it’s available in comic shops now. He’s running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the second volume.
Robot 6: What is it about this particular time and place that intrigued you?
Andres Salazar: I wanted something different than a traditional Western, which are post-Civil War stories, usually in the 1880s, after the trains crossed the plains. I wanted it to be in the 1850s, when slavery was still present. Missouri had a unique position in the country as having both slaves and free blacks, so I wanted to explore those social dynamics. I grew up in Arkansas and traveled to Missouri many times, and there’s something special about the Midwest that I wanted to explore. It was the frontier in the 1850s, and a hotbed of various religions and folk magic. Lastly, I’m a fan of Mark Twain and his stories on the steamboats, and I wanted Pariah to be that mysterious steamboat boomtown.
You might not have realized it at the time, but if you’ve read Avengers A.I., Five Ghosts or just about any issue of a Monkeybrain comic, you’ve seen the work of Dylan Todd. As a designer, Todd has touched a lot of comics, from the recap pages in Avengers A.I. to the logos for Monkeybrain Comics, White Suits, Five Ghosts and Sovereign, to name a few.
Now Todd has teamed with a bunch of writers and artists to create 2299, an anthology of 11 stories set in the far future — 2299, to be exact. ROBOT 6 spoke with Todd about the project, which you can download now for $2 from Gumroad.
I have a good deal of admiration and respect for the author and professor David Ball, so when he tweets me that he’s editing a new series of books to be published by the University Press of Mississippi, I snap to attention.
And, indeed he is. Modeled on a book he co-edited with Martha Kuhlman, The Comics of Chris Ware: Drawing is a Way of Thinking, Critical Approaches to Comics Artists will be an ongoing series, each volume collecting essays from a variety of scholars on a particular cartoonist. The plan is to release two books a year, with the first book on Joe Sacco coming out in 2015. Future volumes will focus on Herge, Charles Schulz and George Herriman.
Actually, this is apparently rather old news, as Ball blogged about this stuff more than a year ago. Still, it was news to me, so I took the opportunity to quiz him over email about this series and his hopes for it.
Sacred Heart is set in a small town where all the adults have mysteriously disappeared and the teenagers rule. The situation is not total anarchy, and that’s one of the things that makes it so interesting — order has broken down in some ways but not in others. It’s been running online for a number of years, but Suburbia is completely redrawing the comic and Fantagraphics will publish it in a single volume— although the cartoonist says there will be more to come.
ROBOT 6 spoke with Suburbia about Sacred Heart and how it has evolved so far.
Brigid Alverson: Sacred Heart is about a town that seems to be full of high-school kids but no adults or younger children. Can you give us an idea about what’s going on?
In the first draft (the one that’s online) it’s kind of a secret, but in the final print version it’s more clear that their parents left almost four years ago and promised to return in about four years’ time.
For many fans and historians, Crockett Johnson’s Barnaby was largely regarded as the best comic strip you never read. Or, if you knew where to look, the best comic you only read a few snatches of.
All that changed last year when Fantagraphics began collecting the strip in a series of handsome volumes, designed by Dan Clowes and edited by Fantagraphics associate publisher Eric Reynolds and Philip Nel, author of Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss: How an Unlikely Couple Found Love, Dodged the FBI, and Transformed Children’s Literature.
The second volume just arrived in stores this week, which made it seem like the perfect opportunity to talk to Nel and Reynolds a bit about Barnaby, what makes it so swell, its legacy, and more. I want to thank them for their time and patience, especially considering this whole thing took place over the Internet.
In 2010, UDON Entertainment published Vent, an anthology/art book celebrating the company’s 10th anniversary. Artist Steven Cummings contributed a piece of art to the collection, which at the time caught the eye of Jim Zub.
“I asked him, ‘What is this? Are you doing anything with this?'” the writer told Comic Book Resources, “and he said, ‘Oh, I had this idea I wanted to do – something supernatural set in Japan, but I don’t know much of how it would work beyond that.'”
Their conversations grew into Wayward, a creator-owned series by Zub, Cummings and colorist John Rauch debuting Aug. 27 from Image Comics this summer. Cummings and Zub were kind enough to answer some questions and share artwork from the series. To see more of Cummings’ artwork, be sure to check out his deviantART site.
Robot 6: Steve, I’ll start with you. How long have you been living in Japan, and where exactly do you live?
Steven Cummings: I like to tell people that I live in almost-Tokyo to keep down the offers of random people to “visit” me (and who really just want to stay somewhere for free during their Tokyo vacation). It’s just outside the window, beckoning at me but not so close that I have to pay the Tokyo taxes. I think I am going on my 10th year here total. I was a student back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and lived up in Saitama and only moved back stateside when I started getting offers from publishers to draw comics.
Having detailed his love affair with Queen, delved into the secret lives of boy scouts and even produced the odd superhero comic, Mike Dawson has released his most ambitious book yet, the politically and socially charged Angie Bongiolatti.
Set only a few months after 9/11, the book centers around a group of twentysomethings, more or less fresh out of college, working at an aspiring dot-com in the Big Apple and trying to figure out what exactly they want to do with their lives. Like satellites, many of them seem to rotate to one degree or another around the titular character, an attractive young woman who is driven by her left-wing political beliefs and trying to ascertain how to adhere to them in the workaday world.
Far from being some sort of one-sided political screed however, Bongiolatti asks questions about the effectiveness of any political movement, no matter how noble, and how best to affect change in the world while still being able to maneuver through it effectively.
I talked with Dawson over email the last few weeks about the book, its themes, politics and the joys of working with a large cast of characters.
Angie Bongiolatti is set within a very specific place and time, New York immediately after 9/11. What made you decide to set your story during this period rather than, say, during the Iraq War or during the Bush/Gore election. Or later?
The Bush/Gore election was the last time in my life when I was completely and blissfully unaware of current events and had no opinion on what was happening. I had no television set at the time, the Internet wasn’t yet an all-consuming focal point of my life, and plus I was 25 years old, and just didn’t care about the world outside of my own social life.
The period after 9/11 was that short window in time where the rest of the world was more or less on America’s “side” when it came to their response. To be against the invasion of Afghanistan was a minority position to take. The invasion seemed legitimate. I remember there were some voices of dissent at the time – David Rees’ Get Your War On being this great voice screaming into the roaring winds of war. I loved that comic. It might have been the first webcomic I experienced in real time.
A weiner dog with butterfly-esque wings that’s a master mechanic. A space-faring Amazonian warrior who’s handy with a blade. A pig-faced, hard-living bounty hunter. Mad scientists with really odd-shaped glasses. These are just some of the characters and elements that make up Twelve Gems, Lane Milburn’s ever-so-slightly tongue-in-cheek sci-fi opera.
Drawing on classic adventure role-playing games, fantasy films and manga, Gems finds the first three aforementioned characters banding together at the request of a mysterious Dr. Z to find the titular gems for purposes unkown (at least initially). Along the way they come across all manner of strange creatures, hostile planets, old foes and metaphysical craziness. Milburn lets his imagination run rampant throughout the book, resulting in a fast-paced, crazed graphic novel full of scenes that could easily be blown up onto a black velvet poster. Plus it’s a lot of fun to boot.
I recently chatted with Milburn about the new book, its inception and his work with the Closed Caption Comics group.