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Swierczynski on cliffhangers, violence & ‘Two Past Midnight’

TWOPM CVR SOL 4x6As part of its 2014 original graphic novel plans, Dark Horse will publish Two Past Midnight, by Duane Swierczynski and Eduardo Francisco, which pits Captain Midnight, Ghost and X against a psychopath named Tempus. In a brief interview with ROBOT 6, Swierczynski details how a change in publishing plans actually allowed him to work in more narrative cliffhangers than he might have otherwise developed.

Tim O’Shea: What can you tell readers about the cast and plot of Two Past Midnight OGN?

Duane Swierczynski: Two Past Midnight  – or as the kids call it, 2PM — is a team-up of some very unlikely heroes squaring off against a freakish mind-controlling psycho who calls himself Tempus, as in “tempus fugit,” or “time flies.” Those heroes are Captain Midnight, Ghost and X, and they’re not exactly hanging out, swapping wisecracks and eating shawarma or whatever. The story is basically a nonstop carnival of violence; there is no time for shawarma.

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Bryan J. L. Glass and Victor Santos get ‘Furious’

FURIO #1 CVR

Furious #1

This morning we posted the Bryan J. L. Glass and Victor Santosprequel to their new Dark Horse series Furious, which debuts Jan. 29. In preparation for the issue’s release, ROBOT 6 spoke briefly with the creators, in the process discovering the character had been percolating in Glass’ mind (on some level) for more than 20 years.

Tim O’Shea: Once you learned you could run a short prequel Furious story in Dark Horse Presents, how did you two settle on what story you wanted to tell?

Bryan J.L. Glass: It was the perfect opportunity for the series as a whole! The moment chronicled in those eight pages has always been part of the character’s back story. It’s how she gets her name. She’s seeking personal redemption through super powers, so there was no way she was ever going to call herself “Furious.” She intended to be “The Beacon,” as a name representative of her desire to inspire others. Yet despite her best intentions, her actions scream louder than her words, and the world — or in this case a television reporter — dubs her accordingly. It’s an important moment. So as soon as we received the green light to introduce her via a DHP short story, I knew I could then remove it from Issue 1. Let it be referenced. It’s the terrible thing that happened on the day this superheroine tried to go public, and now she’s trying to move forward with baggage she never intended; a microcosm of everything that drives her to be a heroine in the first place.

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‘Bad Machinery’s’ John Allison opens ‘Case of the Good Boy’

bad machinery-v2Cartoonist John Allison surprised many in 2009 when he ended his long-running webcomic Scary Go Round and soon launched Bad Machinery, which follows the adventures of two groups of child detectives in the fictional town of Tackleford, England, he established more than a decade earlier in his first online strip Bobbins.

Allison is the first to acknowledge those first months were rocky for the kids of Griswalds Grammar School, with a number of Scary Go Round readers abandoning the new comic, despite its familiar setting. But four years later, it’s a different story for Bad Machinery, which in 2012 won a British Comic Award; the first print collection, released last spring by Oni Press, was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the best children’s books of 2013.

With a second volume, “The Case of the Good Boy,” set to arrive in March, Allison took some time during the holidays to talk with ROBOT 6 about finding an audience, making the jump to print, returning to Bobbins and what the future holds for Bad Machinery.

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Brad Meltzer remakes history in ‘Detective Comics’ #27

ROBOT 6 EXCLUSIVE: Jim Lee's cover for "Detective Comics" #27

ROBOT 6 EXCLUSIVE: Jim Lee’s cover for “Detective Comics” #27

Over the past few years, Brad Meltzer has become one of the pinch hitters of comics.

Although his day job as a bestselling suspense novelist and TV host of History’s Decoded has kept him from taking on an extended comics project since 2006′s Justice League of America relaunch, Meltzer has stepped in for a number of comics projects over recent years, including an arc on Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8 and a recent short in Art Baltazar and Franco’s Aw Yeah Comics.

Next up for the writer is a special contribution to DC Comics’ Detective Comics #27, arriving next week. The spiritual heir to the first appearance of Batman will clock in at more than 100 pages to kick off DC’s 75th anniversary celebration for the Dark Knight, with contributions by Scott Snyder, John Layman, Mike W. Barr and more creators from the character’s past and present. And for his part, Meltzer will team with artist Bryan Hitch to retell “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” the Bill Finger/Bob Kane short that began the Batman legend in 1939’s Detective Comics #27.

We spoke with Meltzer about the legacy of the original story and the challenges of bringing it into the modern era – and not for the first time – while DC shared an exclusive first look at Co-Publisher Jim Lee’s variant cover for the issue.

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Dean Haspiel takes The Fox for a Silver Age spin

FOX3.02-CMYKDean Haspiel is one of the most visible creators working in comics today, and his style is equally recognizable, whether he is creating superhero comics or his own Billy Dogma stories at ACT-I-VATE, the webcomics site he co-founded in 2006.

Even when he’s working on someone else’s property, Haspiel has a way of making it his own, and this is particularly true of his revival of The Fox for Archie Comics’s Red Circle imprint. One of the earliest superheroes in comics, The Fox made his debut in 1940, back when the publisher was still called MLJ Comics, and has resurfaced several times since then; a new version of the character appeared in the 1980s in Blue Ribbon Comics and Mighty Crusaders.

In Haspiel’s hands, The Fox is a reluctant superhero, a “freak magnet” who can’t avoid getting into trouble but won’t run away from a fight. The third issue of the series, scripted by Mark Waid, arrives Jan. 8; Haspiel will be doing a signing that day at Forbidden Planet in New York City. We talked to Haspiel about his version of The Fox, and Archie sent along some art from Issue 3 to go with it.

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Anna Bongiovanni: “I’m a little freaked by ‘Out of Hollow Water’”

OOHW_sample1Alaska, at least as far as I know, hasn’t exactly been regarded as birthplace of notable cartoonists in the same manner that, say, New York or Ohio have been.

Now the 49th state can add at least one name to its roster, Anna Bongiovanni. The Fairbanks native, now transplanted to Minnesota, released her debut Out of Hollow Water through the small-press publisher 2D Cloud. It’s a rather haunting trio of short stories, told in simple, one-panel-per-page fashion, to detail various emotional, familial and even sexual trauma. Bongiovanni, however, relies upon folklore and fairy-tale tropes to give her stories an eerie, otherworldly feel that makes these stories both alien and universal at the same time. It’s a pretty impressive debut.

I talked with Bongiovanni over email during the holidays about her new book and its origins.

Chris Mautner: First of all, tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? How did you get interested in drawing? How were you introduced to comics and what made you decide to start making your own? 

Ann Bongiovanni: I was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. I never got into comics until my parents just happened to buy an Archie comic from the grocery store. Then I was hooked, like obsessed, with Archie comics. Luckily, I calmed down and – while Archie holds a special nostalgic place in my heart – I am not nearly as crazed about the series as I once was. For a few years, I attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and tried to major in elementary education, but all I ever did was draw comics. It’s what I did in-between homework assignments and during lectures. Instead of going to parties, I was drawing in my dorm room alone. I don’t really know what that says about me (yikes), but I couldn’t really think about anything other than telling my own stories. It didn’t help that I really dislike children and wanted nothing to do with them. My parents convinced me to try attending the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2007 and get a BFA in comic art, and I’ve been drawing comics ever since.

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Rich and Christensen take aim this summer at ‘Archer Coe’

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Over the past few years, Jamie S. Rich has built up quite the library of original graphic novels with his name on them, teaming up with artists like Joelle Jones, Natalie Nourigat, Marc Ellerby, Nicolas Hitori De and others. Later this year he’ll add another book to the shelf, as he partners with Dan Christensen for Archer Coe, The Mind’s Arrow. The 148-page black-and-white graphic novel is due out in June from Oni Press.

The story involves a stage hypnotist with real psychic powers, mysterious women, secrets, murder, serial killers and talking cats. Rich and Christensen were kind enough to chat with me for our fifth anniversary about the project.

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Dressed to kill: Frank Barbiere weaves tale of ‘The White Suits’

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From high seas adventure to the mean streets of crime-ridden New York, writer Frank Barbiere is getting around. I already spoke to him about the future of Five Ghosts, his supernatural adventure series with artist Chris Mooneyham, and now he shares details on The White Suits, featuring the dazzling artwork of Toby Cypress. The four-issue miniseries kicks off in February from Dark Horse.

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Sci-fi meets ‘Seven Samurai’ in John Raffo’s ‘The 7th Sword’

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When you run out of bullets and bombs, a sword is a good thing to have at your side. Provided you take care of it, a blade can last you a lifetime — and make your lifetime longer, if you know how to wield it.

In April, Darby Pop (under the umbrella of IDW) will release The 7th Sword, a series that centers on the power of the sword even in futuristic times. Created by screenwriter John Raffo (The Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story, The Relic), The 7th Sword takes his love for Akira Kurosawa’s feudal Japanese dramas and creates a new story, set in the future.

The 7th Sword uses the filmmaker’s work as launchpad to tell the story of a itinerant swordsman named Daniel Cray, who wanders from port to port, planet to planet, until he discovers a remote settlement named ZenZion in need of saving from criminal warlords using an army of robots and mercenaries in an effort to seize the enclave’s resources. Illustrated by frequent Top Cow artist Nelson Blake II, The 7th Sword mixes samurai drama with the dirty, lived-in worlds of a space frontier.

ROBOT 6 spoke with Raffo about this comics debut, the inspirations for the story, and of course, the series itself. Darby Pop has provided us with four exclusive pages from The 7th Sword #1.

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Jacob Chabot lets us in on Hello Kitty’s secrets

Hello Kitty Delicious!There are challenging characters, and then there is Hello Kitty. She’s a familiar face, but nobody really knows anything about her. She doesn’t appear to have a backstory. She doesn’t even have a mouth. And here she is, starring in her own graphic novel.

Jacob Chabot is one of several creators behind the Hello Kitty graphic novels published by Perfect Square, Viz Media’s kids’ imprint. He’s an old Viz hand at this point, having illustrated two of the publisher’s Voltron graphic novels, and his other work includes stints at Marvel (including the X-Babies comics), SpongeBob SquarePants comics, and his two-volume all-ages graphic novel The Mighty Skullboy Army, which is truly laugh-out-loud funny for adults as well kids.

Not only is Hello Kitty the tabula rasa of comics characters, the stories are wordless as well, which presents a whole different set of challenges. We asked Jacob to let us in on some of the details of writing the Hello Kitty story — and check out our preview of Hello Kitty: Delicious! after the interview.

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P. Craig Russell on the new edition of ‘Murder Mysteries’

MURMYST HC 2ED CVR SOLNeil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell’s Murder Mysteries returns in May in a new edition from Dark Horse that will feature new extras as well as a new cover.

The story, originally published as a short story in Gaiman’s 1998 collection Smoke and Mirrors, is set on the streets of Los Angeles, where a lost angel tells a stranded traveler about being sent by God to solve the mystery of another angel’s murder — and to exact vengeance for the crime.

The graphic novel version, initially published in 2002, was described by Publishers Weekly this way: “Using sharp, crystalline drawings of the eternal city and ribbons of color that suggest creation’s simultaneous plasticity and solidity, Russell conveys a bright, illuminated world of purity and divine experimentation. His crisp and vividly rendered drawings capture the haunting sense of loss and isolation Gaiman expresses in this mythic tale of love and jealousy.”

Russell and Gaiman famously collaborated on The Sandman #50, “Ramadan,” and on The Sandman: Endless Nights story “Death and Venice”; the artist also adapted Gaiman’s prose works The Sandman: The Dream HuntersOne Life Furnished in Early Moorcock, Coraline and The Graveyard Book for comics. Russell’s adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales are currently being published by NBM.

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As ‘Five Ghosts’ hits the Seven Seas, Barbiere spills on its future

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Last year for our fourth anniversary I spoke with Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham, the creative team behind Five Ghosts. After running a successful Kickstarter campaign, the duo was preparing for the launch of the miniseries at Image Comics.

And here we are a year later and a lot has happened with Five Ghosts, which has gone from a five-issue miniseries to an ongoing series. I caught up with Barbiere to discuss the comic’s success, their plans for future issues and more. Also watch for my separate interview with Barbiere about The White Suits, a comic he and Toby Cypress are launching at Dark Horse.

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Meags Fitzgerald talks ‘Photobooth: A Biography’

Self-portrait by Meags Fitzgerald

Self-portrait by Meags Fitzgerald

You’ve seen them at amusement parks and train stations, and perhaps even glimpsed some makeshift ones at weddings and other large social functions. Photo booths have been a part of Americana for generations, despite digital technology threatening to make them a relic of yesteryear. Still, most of us give them little thought beyond the opportunity to get a quick picture taken.

Not so with Meags Fitzgerald. The Canadian artist has been obsessed with the technology, history and aesthetics of photo booths for years, and she’s managed to turn her interest into a graphic novel, Photobooth: A Biography, which will be released in May by Conundrum Press. As you might expect, it delves deeply into the history of the device, its significance and what is being lost in the move to digital.

I interviewed Fitzgerald by email last week about her upcoming book and abiding love for this disappearing technology.

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Tharg the Mighty on his return to comics in ’2000AD’ Prog 2014

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When I was a kid growing up in the United Kingdom in the mid-’70s, it seemed like all the comics I read had flamboyant and entirely fictional editorial staff. DC Thomson’s Warlord was purportedly edited by Sir Peter Flint, who was also the lead character in the comic. His nephew Fireball (yeah, I know!) similarly “edited” the publisher’s other action anthology Bullet. Looking back, this tradition was something of an affront. Sure, it seemed like innocent fun and games, but given DC Thomson’s longstanding corporate failure to credit creators by name for their work, it begins to seem more sinister.

I’ve since heard the theory that the art assistants at DC Thomson in Dundee, Scotland, were so scrupulous about whiting out the signatures artists tried to sneak onto their pages because of paranoia that IPC in London would poach their best talents. That had happened before, in 1964, when the great Ken Reid and Leo Baxendale changed sides and caused a massive shift in the balance of power between the Big Two of U.K. comics. Hiding your editorial staff behind fictional identities seems more threatening from the position of adulthood and hindsight: The publisher is saying we can replace you and no-one will even notice! How’s that for job security?

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Dark Horse to publish Gilbert Hernandez’s ‘Grip’

GRIP HC CVR SOL 4x6One of Gilbert Hernandez’s long-uncollected works will be uncollected no more, as Dark Horse has announced it will release a hardcover edition of Grip, The Strange World of Men on July 2.

While the original 2002, five-issue miniseries was in color, the 128-page trade collection ($19.99) will be in black and white but will feature two new pages by the Love and Rockets co-author.

ROBOT 6 readers with good memories might recall that I wrote about Grip earlier this year, lamenting that it was, to my knowledge, the only work by Hernandez that had never been compiled into book form.

To describe Grip’s plot takes some effort, as this is one of Hernandez’s more surreal and deliriously and wacky stories, involving a wide cast that includes an amnesiac young man, a pair of police detectives, a trio of Amazonian adventurers, another trio of gun-wielding gangsters, a sweet little old lady, a dwarf couple and a little girl with an eyepatch. As I wrote in May:

The story begins with the amnesiac young man wandering around a nondescript city and being assaulted by some of the people mentioned above for reasons that are murky at best. The story takes an even stranger left turn, however, when the man literally loses his skin at the end of the first issue and starts walking around beaches spouting seemingly half-remembered phrases. The skin starts to take on a life of its own as well.

2013 has blessed us with a bumper crop of great books by Hernandez that includes the critically acclaimed Marble Season and Julio’s Day, as well as Children of Palomar and Maria M. With Dark Horse planning to release Grip in addition to the collected edition of his more recent Fatima miniseries, it seems as though 2014 will continue that trend well into the new year.

I talked with Hernandez over the phone a few days before Thanksgiving about the new collection, the not-so-secret origins of Grip, and what else he’s working on.

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