We’re taking a break from ROBOT 6’s exclusive new serialized Sixth Gun tale for a brief chat with creators Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt about, among other topics, the release last week of the oversized-hardcover collection of their Oni Press supernatural Western.
Given that the book includes the Christmas short story “Them’s What Ails Ya!” and the strip on ROBOT 6 takes place during the holiday, I was curious to learn what draws them to that setting. Sixth Gun fans will also be happy to learn there’s a new limited series planned, and, more immediately, The Sixth Gun: Sons of the Gun trade paperback arrives next week.
Cameron Stewart is best known for his work with Ed Brubaker on Catwoman and with frequent collaborator Grant Morrison on Batman and Robin, Seaguy and Seven Soldiers. But over the past six years, he’s also struck out on his own, writing and drawing the neo-noir mystery thriller Sin Titulo, a webcomic that’s earned the cartoonist an Eisner and a Shuster award.
Dark Horse published a print collection of the series in September, introducing Sin Titulo to a new audience. In support of that release, Stewart embarked last month on a 13-city tour that’s taking him across Canada and the United States before ending up in England. Ahead of tonight’s stop at Challenger Comics + Conversation in Chicago, guest contributor Dave Scheidt spoke with Stewart about the origins of the largely improvised Sin Titulo, the series’ place within the worlds of print and webcomics, his eventual return to Seaguy, and his plans for a fantasy epic called Niro.
Note: A shorter version of this interview originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
His work might have a rushed, “dashed-off” look to it at times, but don’t kid yourself: Frank Santoro puts a lot of time and consideration into his comics. In fact, it’s safe to say he puts more thought into the overall structure and design of his pages than a lot of his contemporaries, as anyone who has read his “Layout Workbook” series of posts on TCJ.com can attest.
Santoro’s latest comic, the stand-alone graphic novel Pompeii, deals quite overtly with issues of art and craft, as it follows the story of aspiring ancient Roman artist Marcus who’s slaving away as an assistant to the more established painter Flavius (who has his own problems). Marcus is at something of a crossroads, frustrated by his slow progress under Flavius’ tutelage, but unwilling to move back home or reconsider his options, despite the pleadings of his girlfriend, Lucia. As you might expect given the book’s title, things come to a head quite violently with the eruption of a nearby volcano.
Overall Pompeii is a fast-paced but moving, almost tender at times, work, that begins almost as a sex farce but quickly turns into a more considered and elegiac consideration of careers, youth, love and the purpose of art and artistry in our lives.
I talked with Santoro recently about his new book and its conception.
Last year, Archie Comics Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick and comics historian Craig Yoe compiled The Art of Betty and Veronica, the first art book ever released by the nearly 75-year-old publisher. Now they’re back with another deluxe, oversized volume, The Art of Archie: The Covers.
Like their previous book, this is more than just a series of pretty pictures. They kick it off with a look at how a cover is created, contrasting an original sketch by writer George Gladir with a finished cover, then showing the different states of another cover — line art, proofs, and finished product. They also include sections focusing on the individual artists, with a photo of each artist, a brief bio and a sample of his work.
I talked to Gorelick and Yoe about what went into compiling the book — and what went into creating the Archie covers in the first place. Gorelick, who’s been with the company for more than 50 years, drew on his own reminiscences about the way things used to happen behind the scenes.
Brigid Alverson: I’m going to start with the obvious question: Why covers?
Victor Gorelick: All of our covers tell a story. It’s not just some superhero flying around in some poses; you get a gag on the cover. It’s a little bit extra for your money.
Craig Yoe: They are closer to a New Yorker cartoon than a typical comic book cover that is maybe just a scene of action. These do have a nice little scenario and setup and payoff.
Gorelick: And also, we didn’t just paste in a bunch of covers. I have seen other cover books where you just see one cover after another. There’s a little more background on the covers. There are covers that were chosen by our fans — we put something up on the internet and we asked them to let us know what their favorites are.
If Andrew MacLean has his way — and your help — heads will lop once again.
Earlier this year MacLean self-published Head Lopper #1, an action-filled tale of one viking’s quest to decapitate monsters, and the annoying severed witch head that he drags along with him. It was a great introduction, but not near long enough … which is something MacLean hopes to remedy. He’s currently running a Kickstarter so he can publish issue #2, which promises more pages, more head-lopping and more of that evil witch head.
I spoke with MacLean about both issues of the series, as well as his tale in last Wednesday’s issue of Dark Horse Presents and much more. My thanks to Andrew for his time.
JK Parkin: For those who may not have heard of Head Lopper, can you give a few details on what it’s about and how it came about?
Andrew MacLean: Head Lopper follows nomadic Viking warrior Norgal and his companion, the severed heard of Agatha Blue Witch. When they aren’t bickering and torturing each other, they are traveling about beheading monsters or whatever or whomever might get in their way.
Head Lopper actually originated from a Brand New Nostalgia piece I did. The theme that the members had chosen for the week was “Viking” and I just had so much fun with it I just knew I had to run with it. So I redesigned that same character a little bit, including the severed head he was originally pictured with and started putting together some rather simple classic-feeling stories for the unlikely pair.
In 2011, Vito Delsante left the relative comfort of a full-time job at Jim Hanley’s Universe to pursue a career in writing comics. While he’s no stranger to that side of the medium, having written titles like the self-published FCHS and DC’s Batman Adventures, this year could prove his most ambitious, as he has two projects in the works — World War Mob from New Paradigm Studios, with artist Giancarlo Caracuzzo, and Stray, currently up on Kickstarter, with artist Sean Izaakse.
I spoke with Vito about both projects, as well as his comic-reading history, what he learned as a retailer and more.
Giant robots and wisecracking cats. They’re such great cartoon tropes that you wonder why someone hasn’t tried to mesh them together before now. But mesh they do in Brian Ralph’s Reggie-12, an episodic comic strip about an constantly plucky, ever-optimistic Astro Boy-like robot who constantly is saving the city he lives in from danger (usually in the form of other, bigger robots), only to face withering indifference from everyone back home, especially the afore-mentioned cat.
Originally serialized in the pages of Giant Robot magazine and other assorted comics anthologies, the Reggie-12 strips have now been collected in a handsome, oversize, hardbound book from Drawn and Quarterly. Ralph was at the Small Press Expo this year, signing copies of his new book and generally helping man the D& Q booth. I pulled him away for a bit and, once we found a place to sit down, peppered him with questions about Reggie-12.
Chris Mautner: When was the first appearance of Reggie-12? Do you remember when you started these strips?
Brian Ralph: You know, I don’t. I had done comics in Giant Robot earlier before Reggie-12. There was this thing I did called The Legend of Giant Robot. It wasn’t funny. It was trying to be an ongoing serialized comic. I just didn’t have the storytelling chops yet. I ended it and wanted to start something new. That’s when Reggie-12 started and it was such a better fit for the magazine. It’s hard to do a daily strip in a magazine that comes out every month. I got so much more story packed into a smaller space. I don’t know the exact year [it began] though. Ten years ago?
When 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.
I’ll admit, I’m one of those people who seldom notices lettering unless it’s bad, so when I was offered an interview with Deron Bennett, the letterer of Archaia’s Cyborg 009, I jumped at the chance to expand my horizons a bit. Bennett, who was nominated for an Eisner Award last year, has lettered both manga and Western comics, and he worked on both the original translation of the Cyborg 009 manga and Archaia’s Western-style retelling, so he has a unique perspective on this particular work. I also stole the opportunity to ask him some more general questions about being a letterer and what he looks for in other people’s work.
Brigid Alverson: I saw on your blog that you worked on Tokyopop’s translation of the original manga version of Cyborg 009 as well as a later Ishimori Productions edition. What sort of work did you do for them?
Deron Bennett: So here’s the breakdown on that: I was a production artist for Tokyopop when they first brought Cyborg 009 to the U.S. A friend and co-worker of mine, James Lee, actually did the lettering for the manga. I was involved in post-lettering duties at the time, handling things like corrections and pre-press. That role came in handy, years later, when Itochu Corporation decided to revitalize the property through an agreement with Ishimori Productions. They wanted to digitally distribute the Cyborg 009 manga that Tokyopop had produced, but it needed some updating. I was contracted to add translations to the sound effects and fix some existing errors. That, in turn, got me lettering duties on two other Ishinomori classics, Skullman and Kikaider, which were also being prepped for digital distribution. You can currently find the versions of all three titles that I worked on on the comiXology app.
My original intention was to file this under “What Could Have Been,” but unlike a lot of failed-pitch stories, Neil Kleid’s (Brownsville, The Big Kahn) Tapestry 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.”
Aaron Lopresti has been drawing comics for 20 years, but the project that comes out this week is something he’s never been able to do until now.
With DC Comics’ digital-first series Legends of the Dark Knight, the veteran artist of Wonder Woman and The Amazing Spider-Man was given a chance to write a draw a Batman tale on his own terms. Titled “I… Batman,” the story finds Batman at the mercy of a Murderer’s Row of villain, with Lopresti able to depict the rogues in the signature styles of some of their most popular artists. Brian Bolland’s rendition of the Joker from Batman: The Killing Joke, Bruce Timm’s Clayface from Batman: The Animated Series, and more. And for Lopresti, he gets to dream up a twisted Frankenstein-like version of Batman as seen above.
Lopresti spoke with ROBOT 6 about this unique assignment, his burgeoning career as a writer/artist, and the homages in this three-part story.
Next week sees the release of Judge Dredd Megazine #340, featuring the debut of “Ordinary,” a creator-owned strip by writer Rob Williams and artist D’Israeli, the creative team behind the acclaimed 2000AD strip “Low Life,: I’ve been a big fan of both their work for quite a while now — in Williams’ case, since his first published work, the great Cla$$war, in 2002; in the case of D’Israeli, scarily enough, it’s been since his “Timulo’”strip ran in Deadline in the late 1980s. I managed to grab a word with Williams about the new series, and he happily obliged, and sent along a veritable mountain of preview art to boot.
Robot 6: So Rob, the last ordinary man in a world of the super-powered, eh? But what’s Ordinary really about?
Rob Williams: I’m a little wary of frightening people off by talking about themes. “Ordinary” is filled with spectacle, big-Hollywood action set pieces and outlandish characters that are, hopefully, quite memorable, This is a world where everyone gets a different superpower, after all — no two people are the same. But, at its heart, it’s about emotionally allowing yourself to come to terms with fatherhood, really. Out main character, Michael Fisher, is a divorcee who very rarely sees his son when we first meet him. And then the world starts going to hell and it’s up to him to try and find this boy he hardly knows even though there’s a super-powered danger around every turn. And, for Michael, it’s coming to realise the real reason he never sees his son. The book’s called “Ordinary” for reasons that aren’t just about super powers and explosions and giants and talking bears and huge battles. There’s an emotional arc for our lead that is pretty unusual for modern comics, I think.
Tony Cliff didn’t have to escape jail, run from enraged armies or travel in flying ships to complete his debut graphic novel Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, but it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he had. The energy he invests in his story of a globetrotting, devil-may-care adventurer and the reluctant but noble soldier who inadvertently ends up tagging along suggests Cliff has a bit of the thrill-seeker in him, or at least in his pen.
Wanting to learn more about this former Flight cartoonist and his new book, I lobbed a bunch of questions to Cliff, who was nice enough to lob the answers back my way.
Robot 6: How did Delilah Dirk come to be? What was the original idea behind the character, and how did it change from the initial webcomic to Turkish Lieutenant?
Tony Cliff: It started off as a 30-page comic that I thought I’d put together just as a fun thing to do. I’d been reading a lot of Napoleonic War-era novels and wanted to make something in the same time period, with the sort of spirit I’d enjoyed in Indiana Jones and James Bond movies. Something fun, with a bunch of action and a variety of colorful settings.
I combined that first comic with a short story from the Flight anthologies, added a hundred pages to combine the two, and that became The Turkish Lieutenant as it appeared online. The print edition is more or less the same as the webcomic, though some of the text’s been finessed and there are roughly a dozen new pages of what has been described as “Delilah and Selim being cute in the woods,” a description whose accuracy I cannot dispute.
Jeremy Whitley’s Princeless is the story readers they want: a kid-friendly tale of a strong girl who defies authority and has swashbuckling adventures. Centering on Adrienne, a princess who breaks out of her tower, befriends the dragon who is supposed to be guarding her, and heads off to rescue her sister princesses, it’s funny and well written, and it was nominated for two Eisner Awards, best publication for kids (8-12) and best single issue (for Issue 3, which sends up superheroine costumes). Yet its small-press origins and limited distribution meant that it took a while to reach its audience.
Now publisher Action Lab comics is reissuing Princeless, first in single-issue format (starting with Issue 1), and then with a new Vol. 1. After that, the publisher will focus on new content. I spoke with Whitley, who also handles publicity for Action Labs, about why he wrote Princeless and why he is reissuing the series. (Jeremy’s essay on women and comics is also well worth a read.)
Today sees the release of The Best of Milligan & McCarthy, a bumper hardcover from Dark Horse Books collecting almost every page produced by the team of Pete Milligan and Brendan McCarthy. Their collaboration stretches from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, and encompasses strips for music weeklies and national Sunday newspapers, the dawn of the American indie-publishing boom, 2000AD and its creator-owned spinoff Revolver, an Eisner-nominated graphic novel, and ended at the birth of DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint.
It’s fair to say these were my favorite comics during my formative years, so I was both honored and surprised to be asked to provide the introduction in the book. I protested, saying there’s bound to be someone better qualified for the task, but McCarthy insisted he wanted it by someone who had felt the impact of these comics at the time. Hence my nostalgic waffling at the start of the book; ignore that, and skip straight to the book’s meat, some of the funniest, angriest, saddest, smartest, dumbest, most transcendent work the medium has ever seen. To quote my own essay, “a secret history of the comics that followed them, the most influential comics you never see credited as such.”
I abused my access to these two men to ask them some questions, while trying not to gush too badly. I probably failed.