Current Transmissions

‘As the Crow Flies’: loneliness in the great outdoors

Screen Shot 2014-07-19 at 7.00.57 AMMountains seem to have been big theme among Eisner nominees this year. In High Crimes, the ever-looming presence of Mount Everest reminds the readers of the upcoming dangers posed by nature.

A similar thing happens in Melanie Gillman’s Eisner-nominated webcomic As the Crow Flies, although not to quite as perilous an extent. There’s no immediate danger here; the mountain is an expanse of wilderness that stretches as far as the eye can see. Long, wordless passages pause to explore the borders, which seem to stretch beyond the page to show that there is no visible end. No tiny towns dotting the landscape, no tiny outposts of civilization beyond a small camp. Just rocks and trees. While there might be a wild animal in that tangle of leaves and branches, that never poses an immediate threat.

No, the biggest danger in these woods is loneliness.

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Image Comics pushes the needle on gender diversity

FromUnderMountains-13258After the January Image Expo, Image Comics received some flak because most of the creators on stage were white men. On Wednesday, Publisher Eric Stephenson’s keynote address to the Image Expo held in conjunction with Comic-Con International included the following comments: “If we want to build a more diverse industry, though, if we want to develop a more diverse talent pool, then it is of utmost importance that we produce comics that appeal to as wide an audience as possible …”

That was said within the context of the historic gender disparity in comics, especially when looking at mainstream comics and the direct market. There’s more evidence than ever that the gender disparity in readership is no longer true; women are just as likely to read comics as men. If that’s true, then one would hope that just as many would be likely to attempt to make comics. That doesn’t seem to have come to pass in this corner of the industry, but Image announced a trio of upcoming releases that will hopefully start to shift the momentum in the right direction. If nothing else, these are among the most promising books to be announced at Image Expo, and they build on the gratifying surge in creator-owned comics.

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Inside DC Comics’ 1990 redesign of Robin

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With the 25th anniversary of 1989′s Batman, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the Tim Burton movie. As part of that, James at 1989Batman.com has pulled together some excellent threads examining DC Comics’ 1990 redesign of Robin, a project undertaken at the behest of filmmakers.

Out went the elfish garb of the original as DC searched for something more modern — befitting the time, and also primed to be translated into a future Batman film. To accomplish that task, DC turned to several of its top artists at the time, including Neal Adams, Norm Breyfogle, Stephen De Stefano, George Perez and Jim Aparo. DC didn’t tell the artists what it was for; simply, they were asked to redesign the Boy Wonder.

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Is Wally Wood’s ‘Witzend’ a lost treasure or a noble failure?

bookcover_witzenIt seems like the stuff of legend: Wally Wood – the Wally Wood, of EC and MAD fame, fed up with being creatively and financially stifled by the oppressive corporate comics business model, discovers the then-nascent world of fanzines, and inspiration strikes. “Maybe I could create one of these fanzines for me and my friends,” Wood thinks. “We could publish any sort of work we wanted, with no editorial restrictions or code to worry about! Best of all, we’d own it!”

Bear in mind, this was 1966, a good two years or so before the first issue of Zap Comix set the still-budding world of underground comics on fire. The mere notion of comics as any sort of medium for self-expression at the time must have been something that drew wide-eyed stares. But while Wood was certainly no hippie, there’s little doubt he saw this as an opportunity to produce work that he and his friends really cared about.

And what a list of friends. Throughout its run, Witzend collected an impressive roster that included creators like Jim Sterenko, Gray Morrow, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, Reed Crandall, Art Spiegelman (some of his first published work), Don Martin (yes, that Don Martin), Alex Toth, P. Craig Russell, Mike Zeck and Joe Staton.

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Mile High Comics may pull out of SDCC over exclusive variants

Mile High Comics' display at Comic-Con International

Mile High Comics’ display at Comic-Con International

Pointing to “seismic changes” in the number of convention-exclusive variants offered by publishers and toymakers, Mile High Comics President Chuck Rozanski has announced that after more than four decades, this may be his last year at Comic-Con International.

While he acknowledges in an installment of his Mile High newsletter that “the detrimental effects of exclusives at San Diego is not a new phenomena,” he asserts “the breadth and the scale” of those products have changed.

“No longer are exclusives limited to just a few booths, or only to Wednesday evening,” Rozanski writes. “We are now seeing all of the major comics publishers, and every single toy and game company, creating limited edition products that they deny us. This aversion to helping comics retailers has become so agregious [sic] and pernicious that I heard from my fellow dealers that some publisher and manufacturer booths were refusing to even allow anyone wearing a dealer’s badge to stand in line. That is beyond ridiculous.”

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SDCC | Three injured as car drives through ZombieWalk

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Three people were hurt Saturday in San Diego when a car drove through the annual ZombieWalk held in conjunction with Comic-Con International. A 64-year-old passersby was taken to the hospital with a possible broken arm, and the other two suffered only minor injuries.

Accounts of the incident vary, but the San Diego Police Department says a deaf family with small children was stopped at Second and Island avenues as the procession of hundreds of participants in zombie makeup lumbered by their car. Officer David Stafford told U-T San Diego that after waiting several minutes, the 48-year-old driver started rolling slowly into the crowd because his children were frightened.

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comiXology releases the digital comics shackles

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[Editor’s note: Each Sunday, Robot 6 contributors discuss the best in comics from the last seven days — from news and announcements to a great comic that came out to something cool creators or fans have done.]

After last year’s comiXology server blackout, I asked the digital comics provider to drop the leasing arrangement it was using. I was not the first or the last to protest the use of DRM, or digital rights management, technology to prevent people from owning a file of the comic they just purchased. It has consistently been a point of contention for a segment of potential customers, and now our wish is granted. comiXology shook up Comic-Con by announcing they are now offering true downloads of DRM-free back-up files for purchased digital comics.

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SDCC | Bendis to guest-star in Image Comics’ ‘Nailbiter’

Nailbiter #7

Nailbiter #7

In 2000, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming’s Powers #7 featured a familiar guest star, although not one readers were used to seeing in their comics: Writer Warren Ellis joined series protagonist Christian Walker on a ride-along to conduct research for an upcoming book.

But while the series later moved from Image Comics to Marvel’s Icon imprint, Bendis will make a return, of sorts, in November’s Nailbiter #7 as he pays a visit to Buckaroo, Oregon, to research a book about serial killers.

Created by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson, Nailbiter revolves around Buckaroo, a small town notable for being the birthplace of 16 serial killers. After beating a murder rap, the latest and most notorious of the “Buckaroo Butchers,” Edward “The Nailbiter” Warren, has returned home — and he’s a big fan of Bendis, as is Williamson.

“[The Nailbiter] is a very big Brian Michael Bendis fan,” Williamson said during Saturday’s Image Comics panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego. “But he’s a little mad he killed Peter Parker.”

Williamson, who, like Bendis, lives in Portland, Oregon, said the idea of putting words in the fictionalized writer’s mouth “is terrifying.” However, he’s working closely with Bendis to ensure everything feels authentic.

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SDCC, Day 3 | The Force is with Marvel

star warsAlthough Saturday at Comic-Con International was dominated by movies and television — led by Warner Bros. Pictures, Marvel Studios and Legendary Pictures — there was still room for plenty of comics news. First and foremost, the announcement of Marvel’s Star Wars plans.

That line, telling canonical stories set between the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, launches in January with Star Wars, by Jason Aaron and John Cassaday, followed in February by Star Wars: Darth Vader, by Kieron Gillen and Salvador Larroca with covers by Adi Granov, and in March by the miniseries Star Wars: Princess Leia, by Mark Waid and Terry Dodson.

“What’s great about this time period is that all the characters are kind of on the table,” Aaron told CBR News. “Of course this is still early on and these people have pretty much just met each and just come together. So they’re still finding their place within this group and sort of figuring out their relationships with each other. Then there’s the fact that when you look at the gap between Episode IV and Episode V there’s some pretty major beats that happen off screen. So this gives up the opportunity to grab those beats and lay them down as part of the same canon as the movies.”

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Holy second chances! ‘Lost’ Two-Face episode comes to ‘Batman ’66′

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What’s this? DC Digital Editor Jim Chadwick doubling down on the delayed debut of television’s Two-Face? An unproduced script from the immortal Harlan Ellison to be adapted for the Batman ’66 digital-first series?

That was the word from the DC Digital panel at this year’s Comic-Con. Not to be outdone by IDW’s adaptation of Ellison’s original “City on the Edge of Forever” script, writer Len Wein, penciller Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, and inker Joe Prado are bringing Two-Face into the Batman ’66 world.

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SDCC | Action Lab summons ‘Puppet Master’ license

puppet masterAction Lab Entertainment, which publishes such titles as Princeless, Vamplets and Skyward, announced at Comic-Con International that it has acquired the license to the horror-movie franchise Puppet Master.

The comic series will be written and edited by Shawn Gabborin (Fracture, Snowed In), with franchise creator Charles Band selecting the roster of artists. No release date was given.

The film series debuted in 1989 with Puppet Master, the story of an elderly puppet maker named Andrew Toulon, who discovers an ancient Egyptian potion that he uses to bring his creations to life. Pursued by Nazis, Toulon hides the dolls and kills himself, only for the murderous marionettes to be revived 50 years later by a rogue psychic.

The original film spawned nine sequels and prequels, a four-issue comic, action figures and collectible cards.

SDCC | Fantagraphics to publish Liz Suburbia’s ‘Sacred Heart’

SacredHeartCoverFantagraphics announced today at Comic-Con International that it will publish Liz Suburbia’s webcomic Sacred Heart as a one-shot graphic novel.

Sacred Heart is set in a small town where all the adults have mysteriously disappeared and the teenagers rule. The situation is not total anarchy, and that’s one of the things that makes it so interesting — order has broken down in some ways but not in others. It’s been running online for a number of years, but Suburbia is completely redrawing the comic and Fantagraphics will publish it in a single volume— although the cartoonist says there will be more to come.

ROBOT 6 spoke with Suburbia about Sacred Heart and how it has evolved so far.

Brigid Alverson: Sacred Heart is about a town that seems to be full of high-school kids but no adults or younger children. Can you give us an idea about what’s going on?

In the first draft (the one that’s online) it’s kind of a secret, but in the final print version it’s more clear that their parents left almost four years ago and promised to return in about four years’ time.

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SDCC, Day 2 | Eisner wins, ‘Star Trek’/'Apes’ lead Friday

angelaIf the biggest surprise coming out of Comic-Con International on Friday was that, before last night, Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez had never won an Eisner Award — seriously, how can that be? — a close second was undoubtedly the Star Trek/Planet of the Apes crossover from IDW Publishing and BOOM! Studios.

Yes, the two sci-fi franchises will finally meet in an alternate-future event that brings the original crew of the Enterprise together with Taylor, Nova and other characters from 1968′s Planet of the Apes as the Klingons secretly support a renegade gorilla general in a coup to seize control of Ape City. Writers Scott and David Tipton will be joined by artist Rachael Stott for the crossover, which marks the first time BOOM! has partnered with another publisher.

Other announcements of note:

After being introduced into the Marvel Universe at the end of the Age of Ultron miniseries and discovering her past in Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm, Neil Gaiman’s angelic warrior Angela will star in her own ongoing, Angela: Asgard’s Assassin, by Kieron Gillen and Marguerite Bennett and artists Phil Jimenez and Stephanie Hans.

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2014 Eisner Award winners announced

eisnerawards_logoGilbert and Jaime Hernandez won their first Eisner Awards — for Best Short Story and Best Writer/Artist, for Love and Rockets: New Stories #6 — during a ceremony held last night in conjunction with Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples led the evening, with wins for Best Continuing Series, Best Writer and Best Painter/Multimedia Artist. The Wake by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy, Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja, Richard Stark’s Parker: Slayground by Darwyn Cooke, and Genius Illustrated, designed by Dean Mullaney, were also recognized in multiple categories.

Comic Book Resources won its third Eisner for Best Comics-Related Periodical/Journalism.

In addition, Hayao Miyazaki, Alan Moore, Dennis O’Neil and Bernie Wrightson were inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame, joining Irwin Hasen, Sheldon Moldoff and Orrin C. Evans, who were selected earlier by the judges. The Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comics Writing went to Robert Kanigher, Bill Mantlo and Jack Mendelsohn, while Aaron Conley was named as recipient of the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award. Legend Comics & Coffee in Omaha, Nebraska, and All Star Comics in Melbourne, Australia, were the winners of the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award.

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SDCC | This GIF of DC Comics crew is mesmerizing

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Maybe it’s the exhaustion talking, but I can’t stop watching this GIF of Jim Lee, Grant Morrison, Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, John Romita Jr. and Scott Snyder from the Entertainment Weekly Social Media booth at Comic-Con International. It may be my favorite thing today, at least until I find the next thing …

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