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Art Barrage | Superman’s disguises, ‘Temptation of Robin’ and more


Welcome to the first “Art Barrage” of the new year, in which I intend to bombard you with loads of interesting work you might not have seen before. Some of it is comic art, while sometimes it will come from the increasingly comics-besotted worlds of illustration, fine art and street art. Let’s kick off with the above image, from the second series of Mike Mitchell’s surprisingly disturbing re-skins of the classic pose from the cover of Superman #6 (we featured the first lot here at Robot 6 in October). See them all here — the They Live and Krang ones are genuinely freaking me out. That Margot Tenenbaum is pretty creepy, too.

Below is a piece that reminds me of what Mitchell is doing: Hillary White‘s T-shirt design for Threadless from last year, “Super LOL.” It gently takes the mick out of that sublime piece of Golden Age DERP!-thinking, that somehow just putting on a pair of glasses could ever instantly render Superman anonymous. Are you familiar with Ary Sheffer’s “Temptation of Christ“? Well, the second image below is White’s tribute, “Temptation of Robin.” It’s from her series, Pop-Reinterpretation, which also featured the much-blogged and Tumblred “True Muppet.”

Plenty more from around the world after the break, including France’s Didier Cassegrain, Italy’s Adriano De Vincentiis, Japan’s Patrick Awa, the U.K.’s Will Kirkby, the U.S.’s Babs Tarr, and Sweden’s Robert Sammelin.

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Do costumes in Injustice do justice to Justice League’s costumes?

The first issue of the improbably titled Injustice: Gods Among Us includes a dystopian future featuring a fascist Superman, a half-dozen or so superheroes, a handful of supervillains, a pregnant Lois Lane, the deaths of multiple characters, a submarine hijacking and the detonation of a nuclear bomb.

I was most interested in what everyone was wearing.

Injustice is the print version of the digital-first comic based on the upcoming fighting video game from the makers of Mortal Kombat. The game is, of course, based on DC’s characters, so with the release of this issue, the circle is complete: This is the precise part of the tail where the transmedia ouroboros chomps down.

The aspect of DC’s overall New 52 refurbishing — from the de-cluttering continuity reboot to the costume redesigns — that has most fascinated me is that the timing seemed to indicate it was part of a transmedia strategy, which of course has led to months of trying to figure out why particular changes or decisions might have been made, and what that indicates about the publisher’s priorities.

This deep in to the New 52, it’s clear DC eschewed making its comics universe more closely resemble that of  the popular, all-ages cartoons like Justice League Unlimited, Teen Titans, the decades of assorted Batman shows and even Young Justice, which seems rather remarkably able to synthesize aspects of complicated comic-book continuity. And it’s clear the publisher has instead focused its energies on the older teen/adult audiences of video games Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City and, to a lesser extent, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies and their DC Universe Online video game.

So here’s a comic book based on the company’s next big video game, which was being developed and produced just as the New 52 line was being developed and produced: What will this comic look like? What will it be like?

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Battle over Batmobile replicas is back in court

One of Gotham Garage's 1966 Batmobile replicas

Less than two weeks after the iconic vehicle from the 1966 Batman television series sold at auction for $4.62 million, a custom carmaker was arguing that a federal judge should dismiss DC Comics’ claims that his Batmobile replicas infringe on the company’s trademarks.

The publisher sued Gotham Garage owner Ben Towle in May 2011, accusing his California-based business of manufacturing and selling unlicensed replicas of the 1966 and 1989 Batmobile (the company also offers a recreation of the TV show’s Batboat). DC seeks a permanent injunction, the destruction of all infringing products and damages of no less than $750,000 for each infringement.

While Towle failed to persuade a judge in February 2012 that the complaint should be thrown out on the grounds that the U.S. Copyright Act affords no protection to “useful articles,” Law360 reports on Wednesday his attorney took a different approach, arguing that DC waited too long to assert its rights.

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McBess unleashes the music in animated TV spot for Deezer


Matthieu Bessudo, the French artist commonly known as McBess, is becoming very popular indeed with the advertising industry. Known in the comics world primarily for the work he’s produced for the boutique U.K, publisher NoBrow, his background is both in animation and music, playing guitar in various bands, making him the perfect man for this great ad for the streaming music service Deezer.

The 32-second short features a host of trademark McBess tattooed rock ‘n’ rollers who refuse to allow music to be contained like a genie in the bottle, letting it spill out in a series of bravura flowing animated musical set pieces, then ending with the motto “nothing will stop the music.” McBess’sstyle has previously graced ads for the Nissan Qashqui SUV and this memorably filthy and effective one for the charity Good Books.

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C is for crime: Cookie Monster holds stolen gold cracker for ransom

Following an audacious heist that makes the recent Smurf assault seem like small portabellas, police in Hannover, Germany, are on the crumb-littered trail of a missing cookie — a 44-pound golden cookie. The prime suspect? A certain blue-furred compulsive eater by the name of Cookie Monster.

The gilded bronze sculpture was stolen early this month from a 100-year-old sculpture atop the headquarters of German baker Bahlsen (below), leaving authorities puzzled. While Cookie Monster adamantly denied any involvement in the crime — “Me no steal the golden cookie. But me willing to help find real cookie thief!” — not even the promise of a $1,350 reward for information could turn up anything about the real culprit.

But then on Tuesday, someone stepped forward with some demands. Some very delicious demands.

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Anaheim store recovers most of comics stolen in smash-and-grab

Beach Ball Comics in Anaheim, California, has recovered seven of the 11 high-end comics stolen in a Tuesday night burglary after police arrested a suspect an hour away in Topanga.

The store put out a call for help Wednesday afternoon on its Facebook page following a smash-and-grab that resulted in the theft of the comics, some of which dated back to 1940: The Amazing Spider-Man #1-2, The Amazing Spider-Man #1 signed by Stan Lee, The Avengers #4, Batman #4 signed by Jerry Robinson, Giant-Size X-Men #1, Green Lantern #76, House of Secrets #92, Incredible Hulk #102, Incredible Hulk #181, and Superman #33, signed by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. According to the post, the suspect smashed the front door and display case, and was likely in and out in less than three minutes.

Luckily a little later Wednesday, a suspect was apprehended and Beach Ball Comics owner Thomas Gaul was able to retrieve all of the books except the Lee-signed Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, Green Lantern and Superman.

“Thanks to the help of Paul at House of Secrets in Burbank and the quick thinking Ed & Nick at Collectors Paradise in Winnetka, we were able to coordinate police action to take a suspect into [custody] today,” he wrote. “[...] The culprit removed the CGC SS Batman from the case, so we expect the missing Green Lantern and Avengers books ended up the same way.”

Comics A.M. | Angoulême International Comics Festival kicks off

40th Angoulême International Comics Festival

Festivals | The Angoulême International Comics Festival has opened in Angoulême, France, and that’s where all the cool kids are. Bart Beaty surveys the scene for the rest of us; the president of this year’s show is Jean-C Denis (last year it was Art Spiegelman), and there will be an exhibit of his work, but Beaty says the big draw will be the exhibit of work by Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Asterix. [The Comics Reporter]

Editorial cartoons | Rupert Murdoch has apologized, on Twitter, for an editorial cartoon by Gerald Scarfe in the Sunday Times that depicted Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu bricking Palestinians into a wall with blood-red mortar. Many commentators were concerned that the cartoon, which Scarfe intended as a commentary on the recent elections in Israel, came too close to old anti-Semitic blood libel. Making things worse, the cartoon was published on Holocaust Memorial Day. [The Guardian]

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Jet-setting art explorion with High Times aviation panorama

Usually between all of the gang here at Robot 6, we’re able to pinpoint the great new things coming out in comics either when they arrive, and sometimes while they’re on their way. But one thing that slipped under the radar in October is now making its presence known.

High Times: A History of Aviation isn’t a comic in the traditional sense, but it’s definitely a comic. Created as part of U.K. boutique publisher Nobrow‘s Leporello series, this creation by the German artist duo known as Golden Cosmos celebrates the cultural history of aviation with an expansive art print done on both sides of an accordian-folded 54″ panorama.

Both Golden Cosmos and Nobrow are relatively unknown in the United States, but that’s bound to change. Last year Nobrow secured a U.S. distribution deal, and its epicly high-quality printing — and content to match — is slowly making its way into better comic stores nationwide. High Times is available on Amazon, through your local comic shop, or directly from Nobrow’s website.

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Quote of the Day | ‘Comics need to get better at not being so … comic-y’

Hawkeye #7

“Comics can do a lot to be more accessible. A whole lot of that is — well, there’s this sort of weird arc over the last 20 years of thinking that these things would never be collected, and that we were writing exclusively for 36-year-old men who read comics every week. At this point, I think the price point is at such a place and the content is at such a place that we can’t afford to do that anymore. I think Issue 788 of whatever book wouldn’t be a problem at all if Issue No. 788 was written in a way that was satisfying to new and old readers alike. I think it’s really difficult to do, but I think it’s possible. I think we as an industry fell into this pattern of not caring about new readers anymore. There’s a way that you can do it that isn’t the clumsy, awkward way that it used to be done where characters refer to themselves in the third person, thinking back on who they are and how they came to be. You don’t have to write every comic as if it’s the first comic someone’s ever read, but you do have to write as though you would like new people to read your comic — which is kind of what Hawkeye is all about. How clean can I make this? How much like The Rockford Files can you go? It’s not a show like Lost where you have to see it every week, or a show like The Wire where you really have to watch and pay attention closely every week. Rockford had a setup, then a riff, and that is very much how superhero comics are nowadays. So there’s no reason that we should be exclusionary. People love it. I mean, Avengers is the third biggest movie of all time. It hits a cultural sweet spot. It’s just that comics need to get better at not being so … comic-y.”

Hawkeye writer Matt Fraction in an interview with the Los Angeles Times ahead of his signing this evening
at House of Secrets in Burbank, Calif.

The benefits and risks of comics in education

Atlas Black, created for college-level courses on business management

This doesn’t come as a surprise to a lot of us, but a recent study confirms what’s been theorized for years: Comics are a stronger learning tool than text books. It’s gratifying to see for the already-converted, but it should also be a strong signal to publishers and educators that the recent exploration of comics in schools is the right way to go. After all, the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it processes text.

Image-based storytelling is a powerful educational tool. Comics are probably more able to combine story and information simultaneously, more effectively and seamlessly, than almost any other medium. Just look at how easily we superhero fans memorize our favorite character’s power levels, sound effects, costumes and history. I could chronologically sort Cyclops’ outfits over the past 50 years faster than I could list the first 10 presidents of the United States. Why? Because there is a colorful narrative in comics form tied to Cyclops that captured my imagination when I was young. Meanwhile, there was a dry narrative tied to the U.S. presidents, probably more like a litany of facts occasionally brought to life by a good teacher. That doesn’t mean a history comic needs to give George Washington a ruby-quartz visor and Spandex, of course (although that would be pretty awesome!). U.S. history is actually pretty crazy and interesting on its own, but the engagement level will increase exponentially if we actually experience the story of Washington crossing the Delaware. And not just the one moment (already captured by Emanuel Leutze’s iconic painting) but the sequential moments before, during and after, which builds understanding and context, not just temporarily memorized facts.

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Tyler Kirkham takes The Family Troll to Kickstarter

Artist Tyler Kirkham, known for his work on such titles Green Lantern: New Guardians and Ultimate Fantastic Four, is stepping outside of the superhero arena with The Family Troll, a graphic novel written by his wife Jill Kirkham, and he’s turning to Kickstarter for help.

Loosely based on Tyler and Jill’s own struggles to have a child, the fantasy follows a young couple in a similar situation that consults with a wizard in hopes of obtaining a magical solution to the problem. The wizard agrees, but only if two agree to care for a newly rescued troll while he sets off to gather the ingredients for the potion. They raise the baby over the course of a year, growing close to the young troll, and … well, you can probably guess the rest.

Tyler and Jill have been working on the book for more than a year, in between his regular DC Comics series, but they need $11,200 to publish the 26- to 30-page hardcover (for production costs, printing, shipping, etc.). To help reach that goal, they’re offering Kickstarter incentives like signed copies of the book, full-color prints, stickers, original art and a custom Plush doll of Narg the Troll. The pledge tiers are a little far apart — $25, $50, $100, $200, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 — but the campaign is already chugging along at a pretty good clip: Five days in, they’ve brought in $2,987.

Check out art and the introductory video below. The Kickstarter campaign ends Feb. 24.

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It’s high time for hard crime in Sebela & Moustafa’s High Crimes

Kathmandu. It’s a name that conjures images of far-flung locales, ancient civilizations, and maybe even a Bob Seger song if you’re of a certain generation. But it’s a very real place, and a new comic arriving digitally today from Monkeybrain demonstrates it can be deadly.

High Crimes follows an American expat named Zan Jensen who makes a living as a guide for tourists wanting to climb the peaks of the Himalayas. That in itself might be fodder for a series, but writer Christopher Sebela and artist Ibrahim Moustafa have really turned the screws by bringing in a unique sidejob for Jensen: grave-robbing. Jensen, along with his mentor Haskell Price, have carved out a side business scavenging the personal effects off climbers who die on the mountains, and extort money from their grieving families to bring their bodies back for a proper burial. But that all goes sideways when one of the bodies they uncover harbors a secret.

Monkeybrain has released a number of well-regarded digital comics, including Edison Rex and Bandette, but High Crimes looks like a big departure in terms of style and subject matter — and also something that could be a big draw. The first chapter is available now for just 99 cents, with 15 story pages and several pages of backmatter. Squarely aimed at an adult audience, High Crimes is a unique thriller that deserves attention.

Here’s a preview of the first issue, provided by Monkeybrain:

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DC wrestles with ‘Superman Workout’ trademark in Australia court

Part of the "superman workout," apparently

DC Comics has taken its objections over a “Superman Workout” to federal court in Sydney, Australia, arguing a Melbourne fitness service should not be allowed to register the trademark.

According to 9News, the publisher is appealing a July decision by the registrar of trademarks that Cheqout Pty’s use of the “Superman Workout” mark, as it was unlikely to deceive or confuse consumers, or lead a significant number of people to presume there’s a connection between the fitness classes and DC Comics.

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Watch the superhero episode of PBS’s Pioneers of Television

The superheroes-themed episode of PBS’s Pioneers of Television we mentioned Monday is now available online, so you can see for yourself as this week’s installment spans the decades, from Adventures of Superman in the 1950s to The Greatest American Hero in the 1980s.

As you’d expect, the episode contains interviews with the likes of Lynda Carter, Adam West, Julie Newmar, Burt Ward, Lou Ferrigno and Jack Larson. Watch the episode in full below:

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Comics A.M. | The rising stars of IDW; Alvin Lu leaves Viz Media

IDW's The X-Files

Publishing | The X-Files is in the headline, but this interview with IDW Publishing Editor-in-Chief Chris Ryall covers a lot of ground, including the logistics of continuing a defunct TV franchise as a comic, the standouts among IDW’s young creators, and the challenges of being a comics writer. [Hero Complex]

Publishing |  Alvin Lu has left his position as executive vice president of the manga publisher Viz Media. Lu had been at Viz for 13 years and was one of the top executives in the company, reporting directly to CEO Hidemi Fukuhara. [ICv2]

Comics | The graphic novel Metro, once banned in Egypt, is available in Cairo once more. [The Comics Reporter]

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