Interview Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

David Ball delves into ‘Critical Approaches to Comics Artists’

David Ball

David Ball

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.

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SDCC | Fantagraphics to publish Liz Suburbia’s ‘Sacred Heart’

SacredHeartCoverFantagraphics announced today at Comic-Con International that it will publish Liz Suburbia’s webcomic Sacred Heart as a one-shot graphic novel.

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.

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Talking ‘Barnaby’: An interview with co-editors Eric Reynolds and Phil Nel

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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.

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Made in Japan: Cummings and Zub talk ‘Wayward’

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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.

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‘I’m not afraid of revising’: Chatting with ‘Angie Bongiolatti’ author Mike Dawson

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Having detailed his love affair with Queen, delved into the secret lives of boy scouts and even produced the odd superhero comicMike Dawson has released his most ambitious book yet, the politically and socially charged Angie Bongiolatti.

tumblr_n5ziggSU5g1soutgdo4_1280Set 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.

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‘I’m fond of that geeky stuff’: Chatting with ‘Twelve Gems’ author Lane Milburn

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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.

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Eben Burgoon on helping kids make comics at 916 Ink

Eben Burgoon

Eben Burgoon

It’s not unusual for a comics creator to visit a classroom, but the program that Eben Burgoon led for the Sacramento, California, nonprofit 916 Ink was much more than that: a six-week workshop in which elementary school students learned to write comics, then pitched their stories to professional artists who worked with them on the finished product. The workshop included a variety of exercises and techniques, including the “Marvel Method” — Burgoon gave the students pages of finished art and had them fill in the word balloons — and making up the backstory for a random LEGO Minifig.

916 Ink promotes literacy by encouraging young people to write their own stories and poems, and it has published more than 25 books of student work. Its comics program is new and was spurred by demand from both parents and students; the finished work, released this week, will be available in local comics shops, through the 916 Ink website, and eventually through other channels.

We spoke with Burgoon about what he did with the students, how they worked with the artists, and why he thinks comics are a good medium for a literacy program.

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Ian Edginton on mechanical universes and ‘Brass Sun’

Brass Sun 1Brass Sun, by Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard, is a hero’s journey set in a special kind of universe: an orrery, a model of the solar system, created eons ago by a blind clockmaker who set it up so that the different worlds would coexist in peace, giving each one a piece of the key that keeps it moving.

Over the years, power has shifted among the different worlds, and now the universe is starting to wind down, icing up at its extremities. It’s up to Wren, a 12-year-old girl whose grandfather was executed by the quasi-religious authorities for the heresy of speaking about the problem, to locate the missing pieces of the key and reboot the universe. Her quest takes her through a series of adventures in vividly imagined worlds, connected by the brass arms of the giant orrery.

The story originally appeared in the pages of the British weekly 2000AD, but Rebellion/2000AD is re-releasing it as a monthly miniseries for the U.S. market, beginning next week. We spoke with Edginton about the story, and were also provided with a preview of the first issue.

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‘I can’t ever just leave it alone!’: Chatting with Noah Van Sciver

AD.YouthIsWasted.cvr_Layout 1“Is Noah Van Sciver the finest cartoonist of his generation?”

That’s the question I posed a few months ago on this very blog. Anyone who’s been following his work, whether via his one-man, self-published anthology Blammo, various minicomics like The Death of Elijah Lovejoy or his critically acclaimed graphic novel about Abraham Lincoln The Hypo would likely be asking something similar. While there is plenty of competition among Van Sciver’s peers for the “finest cartoonist” title, over the past few years he’s consistently made a case for wearing that crown by methodically building a body of work that was engaging, funny, featured sharply detailed characters and encompassed a variety of genres.

Now AdHouse has published Youth Is Wasted, a collection of short stories taken from Blammo, and various other anthologies. It’s a good introduction to Van Sciver’s world for newcomers, as well as a reminder to Hypo readers that he’s not some one-hit wonder.

In honor of the book’s release, I recently chatted with Van Sciver about the new book, as well as his new mini from Oily Comics, The Lizard Laughed.

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Fantagraphics to publish Ed Luce’s ‘Wuvable Oaf’: An interview with the author

Ed Luce

Ed Luce

As was revealed Friday on The Comics Reporter, Fantagraphics has announced plans to publish Wuvable Oaf, the heretofore self-published gay romance comic by Ed Luce.

Described in the press release as “Sex and the City but with adorable, ex-wrestler hairy gay men,” the series follows the adventures of Oaf, a former wrestler and multiple cat owner who falls for Eiffel, the lead singer of a black metal band called Ejaculoid. With five issues published so far (in addition to various minis) Wuvable Oaf has been compared to Love and Rockets and Scott Pilgrim.

The book, collecting Wuvable Oaf #0-4, will cost $29.99 and be available in March 2015.

Wanting to learn more about the collection and Luce’s work in general, I chatted with with the artist over a Google doc the other evening about Oaf, how he got into comics, his background as a painter, and the perils of being stereotyped.

Chris Mautner: Give me a little bit of your background. How old are you, where are you from and how did you first become interested in making comics?

Ed Luce: I’m 38, so I kind of came to comics a little later than most.  I spent the better part of 12 years painting and drawing in a more fine arts context.  I was also a college art professor during that time.

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Danica Novgorodoff on ‘The Undertaking of Lily Chen’

Danica NovgorodoffDanica Novgorodoff’s The Undertaking of Lily Chen is a road story, a love story, and something completely different as well. Set in modern-day China, it follows the quest of Deshi, a young man whose parents blame him for his brother’s death, on a quest to find a ghost bride for his brother, the corpse of a young woman who will be buried with him and keep him company in the afterlife.

Deshi’s attempts to find a fresh corpse are a washout, and he ends up instead with the very much alive Lily Chen, who is only too happy to escape her hardscrabble existence — and has no idea what Deshi has in store for her.

Novgorodoff deftly mixes elements of traditional and modern-day China in her story, and she illustrates it with beautifully rendered watercolors. I had a chance to talk to her about it last weekend at MoCCA Arts Fest.

Brigid Alverson: How did the story evolve?

Danica Novgorodoff: I started writing it based on these two characters I had I my head, Deshi and Mr. Song, so it took me a while to find the right character for Lily. I knew there would be a girl. I had originally conceived of it as a kidnapping story, and it really didn’t work out the way I had written it because in that situation she was not a powerful character, and I didn’t like that. So I kind of rewrote the plot based on her character, based around who I wanted it to be. I also thought of it as a Western — in a classic Western, there’s a big shootout and everybody dies in the end. That’s how I first wrote it, with everyone dying in the end. It just wasn’t the story I wanted it to be. I don’t need a happy ending, I don’t necessarily need that, but I eventually realized that at the core of this story was a love story, not a death story. I didn’t think of it as a western, but I still felt the relationship between the two characters really came through. I rewrote the ending several times until I found the ending I thought worked out.

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Katie Skelly on ‘Operation Margarine’

Operation-n

April 2014 marks two years since the release of Katie Skelly‘s Nurse Nurse. In one of those great coincidences, this is also the month that sees the release of Skelly’s new book, Operation Margarine.

Her narrative focus has shifted from Nurse Nurse‘s futuristic sci-fi vibe to the motorcycle road trip (and accompanying drama as well as conflict, plus a few nuns) of Operation Margarine. It was a delightful surprise to learn her new work’s connection to Roland Barthes’ Mythologies.

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Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou on ‘Skies of Fire’

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Large diesel-powered airships dueling in the sky. That basic concept caught my attention last week when I discovered the Kickstarter for Skies of Fire, a new comic created and written by Vincenzo (Vince) Ferriero and Ray Chou with art by Pablo Peppino.

To understand the full scale of the project’s plans, particularly given that the Kickstarter has already well exceeded its goal, I conducted a quick email interview with Ferriero and Chou.

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Seth Kushner on his ‘Schmuck’ Kickstarter

schmuck_2nThis week writer and photojournalist Seth Kushner launched the Kickstarter for Schmuck, his semi-autobio/anthology graphic novel about his quest to find love in New York City. While portions of the collection originally ran online at TripCity.net, even those aspects will be remastered and/or colored for the 168-page trade paperback.

This collection, which features the work of 22 artists, also marks the inaugural release of HANG DAI Editions. The HANG DAI imprint, which was founded in New York City by Gregory Benton, Dean Haspiel, Josh Neufeld and Kushner, focuses on “limited edition comix, graphic novels, and art books, with an emphasis on personal interaction at events, conventions, and signings”.

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Matt Ritter and Adam Elbatimy on 8-bit ‘Nova Phase’

Cover#1Veronica Darkwater lives in a world that’s a bit jagged around the edges. That’s because she’s the heroine of Matt Ritter and Adam Elbatimy’s Nova Phase, a comic that is drawn in an 8-bit style reminiscent of old-school video games.

Robot 6 readers got a sneak peek at the first issue late last year, and now the first two issues are available on comiXology; the first issue is free, and the second is just 99 cents. Ritter and Elbatimy plan on a six-issue story to be released digitally first, with every two issues collected into a print comic by SLG Publishing. Eventually, the whole story will be collected in one print volume.

This comic raises some interesting questions of technique and format, so I asked Ritter and Elbatimy to share some of their process and their thinking.

Robot 6: I know everyone asks this, but I’m going to start with it anyway: Where did the idea for this comic come from? Why do a space opera about a bounty hunter in 8-bit-style art? Did the story come first, or was the art a part of the concept from the beginning?

Matthew Ritter: I was interning over at Dark Horse Entertainment, and I wanted to pitch them something before I left. So I contacted my artist friend Adam, who I had worked on other projects with/for. We both loved comics and pixel art, so as we tossed ideas back and forth we settled on pixel art. We talked about some video game spoof comics and other ideas, and eventually I wrote a little short piece set in the Nova Phase world, he liked it, and so we went on from that.

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