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Six ways to improve ‘Man of Steel’ (besides THAT one)

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SPOILERS for Man of Steel, obviously

I’m not here to talk about whether or not Superman would’ve done that. As many have pointed out, that was already settled for mass audiences in Superman II. Instead, I’d like to offer six things that could have made Man of Steel a much better movie, regardless of whose Superman it represents.

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Six comics to read on Bloomsday

Boom Boom #2

Boom Boom #2

This Sunday is Bloomsday, that special time of year when people around the world draw together to celebrate one of the finest works of English literature, Ulysses by James Joyce. Or they try to, anyway.

If you haven’t attempted to read Joyce’s magnum opus before, it can be a little rough going. In honor of the literary holiday, I thought I’d list six Joyce-themed comics you can read on Sunday in addition to (or, if you must, in place of) Ulysses. You wouldn’t think there could possibly be that many Joycean comics available to the casual reader but I assure it’s so. Steady on, stately, plump Buck Mulligan!

 1. Boom Boom #2 by David Lasky: Lasky has done enough Joyce-themed comics to fill at least a thick-sized pamphlet if not an actual book (and really, at some point I need to devote a “Collect This Now!” column to those works). But if you’re looking for just one comic to read this Bloomsday, I would strongly recommend starting here, with the second issue of Lasky’s ’90s-era one-man anthology. In Issue 2, Lasky tells various anecdotes about Joyce during his time writing Ulysses, but his method is both inspired and unique. He apes specific, iconic Lee/Kirby comics, especially Fantastic Four #1, imbuing Joyce’s comparatively mundane life with grandeur and heroism. Even after all these years, it’s still a pretty boss idea. Once you’re done with that comic, consider picking up Lasky’s “Ulysses” minicomic adaptation as well.

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6 Eisner-worthy graphic novels for younger readers

little white duck na liuVoting for the 2013 Eisner Awards concludes Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop talking about them. Last year, I had the privilege of being an Eisner judge, and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. This year I’m back to being a civilian, and that means once again I can complain about the judges’ choices. Let the games begin!

Actually, I thought the selections were pretty good, and I’m happy that the judges decided to continue having three categories for young readers, as we did last year. However, children’s and YA graphic novels are a burgeoning sector of the market, and there’s a lot of good work out there. Here are six graphic novels that I would have been arguing for this year had I been in the judging room. And incidentally, all of them are good reads for adults as well.

Little White Duck, written by Na Liu, illustrated by Andrés Vera Martínez: This book deserves the Eisner for the beautiful art alone, but the story is wonderful as well. It’s Liu’s tale of growing up in China in the 1970s, and she starts with her parents mourning the death of Chairman Mao. The view of Chinese life in the Communist era is very different from what we are accustomed to; Liu writes matter-of-factly about the hardships (their family had two children, so she was not allowed to go to school) but also the joys of family life. It’s a very personal and three-dimensional perspective on an era we often view in flat black and white, and both Liu and Martínez are master storytellers.

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6 Vertigo characters that could follow Constantine to the New 52

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In March, DC Comics debuted Constantine, a new series focusing on the hard-living occult detective John Constantine. No big deal, right? Not so. For more more than two decades, the character was one of the pillars of the the publisher’s “mature readers” Vertigo imprint, starring in the long-running Hellblazer.

Following brief minor dalliances in some event titles in 2010 and 2011, Constantine was made a key figure in the New 52 title Justice League Dark. The aforementioned Hellblazer ended earlier this year with its 300th issue, paving the way for a full-fledged transition of the Liverpudlian warlock into the realm of superheroes. Readers greeted the new Constantine series with both hope and trepidation, and although the first issues are out — so is the jury.

With that in mind, it’s interesting to look at other characters that have called Vertigo home, and how they might fare in the DC Universe of the New 52. Some, like Constantine, crossed over with a bang, while others like Lucifer Morningstar and Kid Eternity, not so much. For this installment of “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six characters or teams that could possibly make the transition well. Please note than many of Vertigo’s best-remembered series aren’t wholly owned by DC but rather in creator-participation deals like Preacher, Transmetropolitan and 100 Bullets; so while the idea of Spider Jerusalem reporting on the state of things in Gotham City might be amusing, I’ve left those off the table for reality’s sake.

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Six characters we’d like to see get their own Marvel MAX series

LOGO Marvel Max

Debuting in 2001, Marvel’s MAX line was an attempt to draw a clear line between its vaguely older-teen comics and distinctly “adult” titles featuring some of the well, edgier, characters from its library. The imprint largely excelled at that, with the flagship Alias, by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos, and Garth Ennis’ takes on Nick Fury and the Punisher. However, in recent years it’s become a shadow of its former self, existing solely to carry Ennis’ recent return to Fury, and the noble but ill-fitting Wolverine MAX. But that doesn’t mean it can’t have a revival.

In today’s Six by 6, I look at six characters that straddle the fence separating “popular” from “popular enough to carry their own series in the long-term” that would do well to take a trip to the MAX line. Some are no-brainers, while others might surprise you.

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Six free comics we can’t wait to get our hands on today

fcbd 2013Free Comic Book Day is once again upon us, the day that current and hopefully potential comic fans flock to their local comic shop to sample a buffet of comic choices from publishers large and small. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into this time around, from previews of new or upcoming stuff — like Marble Season and Superman: The Last Son of Krypton #1 to first issues of brand new comics — like The Strangers #1 and Aphrodite IX #1. There are original comics, licensed comics, kids comics, anthologies … basically something for everyone.

Some retailers will offer all-you-can-eat options, while others might have limits on what you can get … so if you have to make a choice, here are six comics we’re particularly looking to sink our teeth into.

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Six by 6 | The six best superhero costume redesigns of all time

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One of the most symbolic moments of Superman is when he changes from his guise as Clark Kent to become the Man of Steel. The idea that the wearing of a costume imbues some kind of unquantifiable power is a key part of what makes superhero comics work; otherwise, they’d just be adventurers and action heroes.

But speaking of change, changes in superhero costumes have become as much a part of the comics as the heroes themselves. From Superman’s early days with his golden emblem to the modern “S” today and on through to other years (including Batman’s countless wardrobe changes), the design of a superhero isn’t static and a redesign has proved, many times, to be just the thing to make a character work.

In this week’s “Six by 6,” I pinpoint six of the most dynamic and powerful redesigns in superhero comics. Redesigns that saved a character from obscurity, put them in a new light or simply simplified what was already there.

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Six by 6 | Six characters M.I.A. in Marvel NOW!

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Marvel’s turning over a new leaf, so to speak, as it enters the Marvel NOW! era. But in that amid the flurry of new titles, new line-ups and new creators, we’re finding some notable absences — notable to us at least. While some missed heroes like Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Mockingbird have popped up in cameos here and there, there are still a significant number of popular players waiting to be brought onto the field. In this installment of “Six by 6,” we suss out six such characters and zero in on their last whereabouts, and where some of them might show up next.

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Six by 6 | Six great superhero comics outside of Marvel and DC

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There’s more to superheroes than those residing at Marvel and DC Comics. Sure, they might dominate the market, but that doesn’t mean they’re by default the best.

Outside the realms of the Big Two, superheroes are thriving on the more independently minded scene. From a mixture of throwback superheroics to off-beat adventures, and even some superheroes who are willing to go where DC and Marvel wouldn’t let their own properties, there’s a cornucopia out there for readers. And now, we’re spotlighting six standouts in that superhero mix in this week’s “Six by 6.”

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Six by 6 | Six largely ignored Daredevil stories worth tracking down

Having just edited, and written some of, a collection of essays titled The Devil Is in the Details: Examining Matt Murdock and Daredevil (debuting from Sequart at Emerald City Comic Con), I’ve spent a lot of time reading Daredevil comics. I’ve soaked them all up, processed them, and seen them analyzed scores of ways.

Daredevil is an amazing character and title, and there will always be runs and stories that get praise; we hear about them constantly. So I wanted to quickly bring light to some of my lesser-known favorites. Here are six Daredevil stories that are consistently ignored and yet I think you should track them down.

1. Daredevil/Black Widow: Abattoir
This 1993 graphic novel was a gem I didn’t even know existed until very recently. I had never heard anyone mention this weird and violent tale from Jim Starlin and Joe Chiodo, and I worried that might be because it was terrible. I was happy to discover, after finding a secondhand copy on Amazon, that wasn’t the case.

The story has Black Widow chase down a brutal butcher family of sorts that’s killing telepathic S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Daredevil nominates himself as the guardian devil for his old flame, and the game is afoot. What follows is as much a psychological game as it is a barbaric fighting match. Axes and chains are as dangerous as flashbacks and barbed words. This book is a mature read, as the blood flows loosely and we even get a narratively charged female-on-female kiss — something I have to assume was risqué for a Marvel book in the early ‘90s.

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Six by 6 | Stopping for books on a snowy evening

I live north of Boston, and as I write, my front door is snowed shut (don’t worry, the neighbor kid is shoveling it out) and my car is immobilized behind a large berm of snow. The nameless blizzard of ’13 didn’t wreak any major damage in my area, but I’m going to be staying in for a while.

This doesn’t bother me; I grew up in Northern Indiana, where you could count on being completely snowed in at least once a winter, and we sort of liked it. It clears a space in your life; when you can’t go out and most of the activity in the outside world has stopped, it’s a great time to light a fire, pour the drink of your choice (for me it’s hot tea) and hunker down with a good book. Here are six graphic novels that evoke that winter feeling, all of which are equally enjoyable whether you are reading them by a snowy window or on the beach.

Chikyu Misaki | This three-volume manga, published many years ago by the now-defunct CMX, is a charming all-ages story about two children who find a shape-shifting lake monster in their country town. It’s structured like a caper movie, but one of the things I really enjoy about it is Yūji Iwahara’s wonderful art, which perfectly evokes the feeling of a country house on a snowy day. You’ll have to pick it up used or from the library, though, as it’s long out of print.

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Six 2012 Shelf Porn submissions I envy

Our Shelf Porn feature almost died from natural causes earlier this year. It wasn’t because we wanted it to die, but after four years, the submission well began to dry up. Could we have reached a point where everyone who wants to show off their shelves has shown off their shelves? I thought. You always hear about this limited number of comic collectors out there in the world, so maybe, statistically speaking, we’d hit critical mass on the subset of that number who own cameras or like to take pictures or read the site or whatever.

It wasn’t the first time we’d seen submissions slow down, but there was enough of a gap between February and July that I thought maybe that was it. But you can’t keep a good Shelf Porn down, it seems; over the past few months, we’ve had a bit of a resurgence in submissions. In fact, I think I have enough submissions to make it through the end of January. So thanks to everyone who submitted this year and kept it from going the way of the dinosaur.

With it being the end of the year and all, I wanted to look back at the year in Shelf Porn, and as I started going through the ones we’ve posted here, it occurred to me that a lot of them had some defining element that really jumped out at me–usually in the realm of “Man, I wish I had one of those!” So instead of doing a “best of” list, I thought I’d focus in on six 2012 submissions that made me envious …

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