Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
The creator of Skeleton Key and Love Fights, cartoonist Andi Watson has worked in more recent years on his all-ages series Gum Girl and Glister, which are better known in his native United Kingdom than in the United States. However, he’s about to make a big splash with young readers on this side of the Atlantic with Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula, a lighthearted romance with creepy characters to be published in February by First Second.
We asked Watson to talk a bit about the book and where it fits in with the rest of his work.
Brigid Alverson: First of all, can you tell us what Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula is about?
Andi Watson: It’s a spooky-themed romance story about love, responsibility and desserts. Princess Decomposia is princess of the Underworld whose father, the king, has taken sick and demands constant attention. The Princess has to run the Underworld, the palace and take care of her father. It’s all getting too much when the king’s fussy eating habits drive off another chef. Fortunately, Count Spatula gets the job and he helps the princess tackle the Underworld’s problems while they grow closer … only the king’s not too keen on their friendship.
Best known for his award-winning “slice-of-life fantasy” webcomic Tails, Ethan Young turns from the semi-autobiographical to historical fiction for his next project. Nanjing: The Burning City, a graphic novel due out later this year from Dark Horse, tells the story of two Chinese soldiers during the night before the Nanjing Massacre.
This will be big for Young; not only will the year see the release of a graphic novel he’s been planning since college, but he and his wife are also expecting their first child. We spoke about the project, fatherhood and more.
I got to know Ryan Sands almost 10 years ago, when he was publishing the strangest manga I had ever seen on his blog Same Hat! Since then, I’ve watched him follow his enthusiasm for innovative comics as the publisher of the Electric Ant zine, the translator of Suehiro Maruo’s The Strange Tale of Panorama Island for Last Gasp and now, as he explained to Chris Mautner in August, the creator of his own small press, Youth in Decline.
His flagship publication is Frontier, an anthology series in which each issue is a complete comic by a single creator. Frontier ended 2014 strong with comics by Emily Carroll and Sam Alden, and this year’s lineup looks equally good, with Jillian Tamaki, Anna Deflorian, Becca Tobin and Michael DeForge on the roster.
Sands has signed up some of the most interesting up-and-coming creators in the indie comics scene and has presented their works in interesting and sophisticated ways, so I asked him to talk to me in depth about his work on Frontier.
Brigid Alverson: The Frontier anthology seems to be evolving into a place for side stories or experimental work by creators who are already working on other, longer projects. Do you think these comics would be published if not for Frontier?
Ryan Sands: The goal for the Frontier series is to spotlight each individual artist and a distinct story or collection of work. I tried to set out the goal pretty explicitly on our site when starting Frontier, saying we’d focus on three types of books: up-and-coming talent in the North American indie scene, introducing the work of international artists I like, and presenting “uncommon dispatches” from more-established creators. The first year of Frontier was mostly focused on the first two goals, but with Sam Alden and Emily Carroll’s books — and now with Jillian Tamaki and Michael DeForge creating issues for 2015—I’m hoping to mix in some of these interesting stories from established creators.
Humanoids’ plans for the return of The Metabaron clearly takes a great deal of advanced work, given that while the new stories were announced in October 2014, the first volume/cycle (of four) will not hit shelves until June 2016. Embarking on what happened to No Name (since the end of the 1990s Metabaron spinoff series by Alexandro Jodorowsky and Juan Gimenez), in this new interview, Metabaron writer Jerry Frissen shares his anticipation for tackling an adventure based on a Jodorowsky plot.
Frissen is known for writing a wide variety of stories, so while we had the opportunity, this discussion also addressed the upcoming World War X (his collaboration with Peter Snejbjerg set for release this April) as well as lessons learned from artist Guy Davis on Zombies That Ate The World.
Danger Club, the teen-superhero miniseries from writer Landry Q. Walker, artist Eric Jones and colorist Rusty Drake, earned acclaim upon its debut in April 2012 for its blend of classic comic-book archetypes and decidedly darker sensibilities. It’s a violent mix of Teen Titans, Watchmen and Lord of the Flies, with young sidekicks — both heroes and villains — left to their own devices after their mentors head into space to face a cosmic threat, and then never return.
However, just as the Image Comics miniseries was kicking into high gear, it was derailed by real-world concerns when the fourth issue was delayed after one of Drake’s children was struck by a car. That contributed to a domino effect, with Issue 5 arriving in April 2013, after which Danger Club went on hiatus.
However, that changes late this month, when the eight-issue series returns for its final leg: Issue 6 goes on sale Jan. 28, followed by Issue 7 on Feb. 25 and Issue 8 on March 25.
Joshua Williamson and Andrei Bressan have a fun series going with Birthright. Debuting in October from Skybound, the fantasy is in the middle of its first arc, introducing Mikey, a boy from our world who crossed over to a fantasy world at age 10, only to return a year later as a 30-year-old warrior hero. After a rocky reunion with his family — his father Aaron, his mother Wendy and his “older” brother Brennan — Mikey escaped police custody and went out on the road, on a mission to take out five evil wizards who found their way into our reality.
However, not all is as it seems: Mikey is under the influence of the Nevermind, an evil presence at the core of problems in the other world, and his mission is anything but transparent.
ROBOT 6 spoke with Williamson about the direction of Birthright, balancing different aspects of the story, and the importance of choice and family as the series moves forward. Skybound also provided us with exclusive pages from Issue 4.
Best known to U.S. audiences for his work on Blue Beetle and his collaboration with Scott Snyder on American Vampire, artist Rafael Albuquerque is exchanging the world of superheroes and the supernatural for the Meld, an inhospitable dimension littered with, in his words, “temporal garbage.”
It’s the setting of Ei8ht, the creator-owned miniseries Albuquerque co-wrote with Mike Johnson (Supergirl), debuting Feb. 18 from Dark Horse. Based on the artist’s Brazilian webcomic Tune 8, the five-issue series centers on a chrononaut named Joshua who takes on a suicide mission to save his dying wife, only to find himself trapped in the Meld with little memory.
Albuquerque spoke with ROBOT 6 about the evolution of Ei8ht, his love for science fiction, and his creative goals for the series. He also shared an exclusive preview of the first issue.
Among the critically acclaimed series from Monkeybrain Comics, Amelia Cole by D.J. Kirkbride, Adam P. Knave and Nick Brokenshire stands out as one of the more successful. By success, we mean the creators’ ability to consistently produce digital releases of individual issues, followed by collected editions release through IDW Publishing.
To date, Amelia Cole has produced 19 issues (with the 20th arriving this month), and three trade paperbacks: Amelia Cole and the Unknown World; Amelia Cole and the Hidden War; and Amelia Cole and the Enemy Unleashed. In terms of digital releases, Issue 20 will mark the second part of Amelia Cole and the Impossible Fate.
As part of this interview about the series, Kirkbride and Knave shared an early look at pages from the next issue.
Mythology is the intellectual gateway that’s gotten many readers interested in becoming a writer or artist. But few are as passionate about the subject as George O’Connor, creator of Olympians, the 12-book series from First Second recounting the Greek myths. This month, he releases one of the volumes he’s clearly looked forward to since first embarking on the project: Ares: Bringer of War.
Ahead of the book’s release, O’Connor spoke with ROBOT 6 on what appeals to him about mythology and these characters in particular, and the challenges of adaptation. He also recounts how became friends with Age of Bronze creator Eric Shanower not through their shared fondness for classical mythology, but rather a mutual appreciation of Oz.
Andrew MacLean is one of many artists I’ve enjoyed following over the past few years, from his self-published work on the two volumes of Head Lopper to his collaborations with writers like Jim Gibbons, Nolan T Jones and Jamie Gambell. This year he’ll be hitting comics in a big way with the release of ApocalyptiGirl, a graphic novel about a girl, a cat and an apocalypse.
Due out May 20 from Dark Horse (and listed in the current Previews), ApocalyptiGirl is both written and drawn by MacLean. I spoke with him about the book, as well as his plans for more Head Lopper.
Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T. (One Man War On Terror) is a tongue-in-cheek action comic about a highly skilled government operator who takes on a group of … oh, what does it really matter who the bad guys are? Bottom line, they’re bad guys, and O.M.W.O.T. is more than happy to chop, kick, shoot and otherwise eradicate them from existence. As Fantagraphics puts it:
Since they signed an exclusive five-year contract with Image Comics last year, the crime-comics duo of Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips have been rolling out newer, weirder stories with the finale of Fatale and their latest Hollywood noir The Fade Out.
But at the end of this month, they’ll return to their biggest project, the anthologized yet interconnected neo noir series Criminal. Originally published though Marvel’s Icon imprint beginning in 2006, the series returns on Jan. 28 with a one-two punch of Coward, the first Image Comics trade collection, and an all-new magazine-sized one-shot titled Criminal: Savage Edition.
We caught up with Brubaker about the return of Criminal, the one-shot’s mix of prison life and ’70s genre comics, and the future of his partnership with Phillips.
ROBOT 6: You’ve spoken a lot about picking up new readers with each project you’ve launched at Image, and because it’s been a few years since you and Sean did a brand-new Criminal volume, I thought we’d start with the basics. How do you describe Criminal to those who haven’t read it? It’s a series with a high concept behind it, but it’s not one of those “It’s The Big Sleep … in Space!” kind of high concepts.
Ed Brubaker: It really doesn’t have a high concept, does it? I usually just lean on saying it’s won a bunch of awards and is critically acclaimed, because I don’t know how to “one-sentence” it. But let’s try …
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.