Current Transmissions

Say Hello to Black Jack manga goes to Facebook

Manga creator Shuho Sato has been experimenting with different ways to actually make money with manga, which is a harder puzzle than you might think. The problem is that manga creators usually break even or lose money on the serials that appear in Japan’s weekly or monthly anthology magazines; they make their money when the collected editions (tankoubon) are released, but that doesn’t always happen, so it’s a gamble. Sato has written some sharp commentary about the economics of being a manga creator, and he pulled his series Give My Regards to Black Jack (also known as Say Hello to Black Jack) from his print publisher, Kodansha, and he had previously put it up online, which was at least initially a financial success.

Now the Finnish digital comics publisher Amimaru is publishing Give My Regards to Black Jack in English on its Facebook app, which is in open beta. The price is 12 Facebook credits, but starting Sept. 15, it will be free, per Sato’s request. Sato is also making the series available without restriction for “second uses” such as novelizations, and has said he will stop enforcing his copyright for an indefinite period.

How does he make money this way? It’s possible that Sato just doesn’t care, as he made it clear when he parted company with Kodansha that he was not satisfied with them. It’s worth noting that his newer series, New Say Hello to Black Jack, was published by Shogakukan, and he’s not giving that away for free, so presumably he figures he has made all he can from the first series and it’s a better use of his time to use it as a promotion than to try to eke a trickle of royalties from it.

This weekend, it’s the Small Press Expo

The annual Small Press Expo, better known as SPX, will arrive at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Convention Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Saturday and Sunday. This particular SPX promises to be excellent — mayhap the bestest SPX evar — so allow me to run through some of the goings-on if you happen to be in that area this weekend.

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Conversing on Comics with Eric Canete

Most any professional comic artist is able to produce work that looks like comic art; that’s their job. But there’s a select few who can produce work that looks like fine art. Artist Eric Canete has been doing it for almost two decades now, from his start at the racy publisher Verotik owned by Glenn Danzig and on to work at Wildstorm, Marvel and the independent arena. While Canete has made a significant name in comics with his work on Iron Man: Enter The Mandarin and The End League, comics isn’t his only career; he balances it with a thriving career as a storyboard artist for animation, sometimes working exclusively in animation for a period of months (or even years), and then sometimes returning to comics for a time like he never left.

I reached out to Canete for this interview because, frankly, I missed seeing new comics from him. I was aware he had a career in animation, but after being spoiled with the caliber of his work and successfully tracking down most of his early, hard-to-find comics, I wanted more. I’d interviewed Eric on previous occasions, and he exceeded my expectations about how upfront he would be about the waxing and waning of his comics work. He’s now involved with the upcoming DC animated series Beware the Batman after finishing up TRON Uprising, and I discovered Canete had a graphic novel released this year. And if that wasn’t enough, Canete considers it the apex of his career so far. Unfortunately, however, it’s not available in America — or even in English.

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Roger Langridge wraps up Snarked!, teases new projects

Roger Langridge has posted some updates to his blog, including the news that, at least for now, Issue 12 will be the last for his Eisner Award-winning kids’ series Snarked! — although if the collected editions sell well, he may bring it back.

That means Popeye is his main occupation at the moment; Langridge is writing the new Popeye comic from IDW Publishing, and he will be drawing some of the stories as well, starting with Issue 7.

And then comes the tease: “I’m also writing something else for IDW. I hope I can talk about that soon. Right now, let’s just say that it’s something more in the action-adventure line.”

He also has some art projects in the works — illustrating a single-issue comic for IDW and a “proper book, with words and everything” for an unnamed publisher. And he will be testing the waters for a creator-owned project in David Lloyd’s yet-to-be-launched digital anthology Aces Weekly.

Langridge closes the post with some of his Baltimore Comic-Con sketches, so it’s worth the click just for that.

Hey, sexy lady! It’s Deadpool vs. ‘Gangnam Style’

It would do this video — and you, the reader — a disservice to try to explain it, but after watching only a few seconds you’ll undoubtedly find yourself wondering why, oh why, it’s taken someone so long to film Deadpool thrusting his pelvis and encouraging complete strangers to join him in “Riding the Horse” to the tune of “Gangnam Style.”

And if you’re unsure just what “Gangnam Style” is, you can check out the similarly hilarious original video to the international sensation by South Korean rapper PSY. If neither of those videos brightens your day, then probably nothing will. (Did I mention Bane makes a cameo appearance alongside Deadpool?)

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Talking Comics with Tim | Landry Walker & Eric Jones on Danger Club delays

Independent comics are vastly different from comics published by the likes of Marvel and DC in one major way: Fill-in creators are rarely, if ever, an option. If a creator cannot make his or her deadline that month, the issue is delayed. The creative team of Image’s Danger Club — writer Landry Walker, artist Eric Jones and colorist Rusty Drake — recently announced an upsetting and reasonable cause for the delay in the release of the fourth issue. As detailed on Walker’s blog: “Several weeks ago two of colorist Michael (Rusty) Drake’s kids were hit by a truck while riding their bikes home from the store. The short version is that they are both okay. The longer version is that Rusty’s son suffered a brain contusion and his daughter an injured ankle. This meant several days of stress and uncertainty. Things are better now, and both kids are home from the hospital and receiving continued treatment.”

While fortunately the children are recovering, Drake’s need to focus on his children’s care has not only delayed Issue 4, but has created a domino effect on the production of subsequent issues. The creative team is struggling to get back on schedule, and when I learned about the situation I offered to help them get the word out with an interview. Drake, a freelance creator with a full-time job and family demands, was unable to participate, but Walker and Jones were happy to discuss the delay and why there was never an option to proceed without Drake’s involvement in Danger Club. Also, while I had their attention, I decided to learn a little bit more about this dark series (a departure for the creative team) in which all the heroes left Earth for space to battle a horrific evil and never came back, leaving the teenage sidekicks to face the approaching danger.

But before diving into my questions, Landry wanted to stress one thing: “I should mention that Issue 4 is 100 percent complete. I haven’t been told the date it will be released, but it should be only a few weeks, tops.” The creative team clearly appreciates the readers’ patience. As an outside observer, I hope this interview gives some perspective on the delay, as well as the struggles independent creators face.

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, it’s Stan Lee’s Comikaze

Stan Lee's Comickaze

Conventions | Coming up this weekend: Stan Lee’s Comikaze in Los Angeles, featuring special guests Todd McFarlane, Neal Adams and Marv Wolfman. Attendance is expected to reach 60,000, which is a pretty big number for such a convention that’s only in its second year. [Hero Complex]

Conventions | James Sime, owner of Isotope Comics and one of the organizers of MorrisonCon, talks about, well, Isotope Comics and MorrisonCon, and what it was like translating the world of writer Grant Morrison into a comics event: “The *promise* of MorrisonCon is this crazy, life-altering weekend where you’re plugged directly into this swirling world of brilliant ideas, offbeat interests, mad obsessions, and personalities who fire Grant’s creativity. We had to make that promise real, to translate as many improbable concepts and even random off the cuff Morrison riffs as possible into the tangible world. To render all that into nightclubs and hotel rooms and meeting space chairs and places for awesome humans to meet and mingle. We all agreed, it just wasn’t worth doing unless we could live up to that promise, to truly make something worthy of the name MorrisonCon… and go far beyond it.” [Three If By Space]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Relaunch roundup, Part 2

The Flash, by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

[Note: all this was written before I read any of this week’s comics.]

As mentioned last week, part of this look back at my New 52 reading is the chance to see where I might drop some titles. Not that I want to be negative unnecessarily, but it’s always good to make sure you really like what you buy. While I do buy some books “just because,” it’s very easy simply to fall into the habit of reading the same things month in and month out, neither looking forward to them nor missing them when they’re gone.

Therefore, let’s push through some bad vibes and talk about a couple of books I let drift away. Besides Superboy (covered last week), there was Red Lanterns (written by Peter Milligan, penciled by Ed Benes) and Grifter (written by Nathan Edmondson, penciled by CAFU). Originally I liked Red Lanterns because I thought it had recast Atrocitus as a distracted middle-management type, questioning his place in the universe while his functionaries went down their own demented paths. However, as the months went by the series never really built up any momentum, and for a premise based around the blood-spewing power of RAGE!!!1!! that’s not so good. Much the same applies to Grifter: thought it had potential, but it didn’t hold my interest.

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Women of Action | Huntress/Power Girl: Worlds’ Finest

I debated about whether to include the current Worlds’ Finest as part of this project. According to the rules I set up for myself, I was only going to cover comics that were named after their female leads. I decided that because Birds of Prey was an all-female team, that would qualify, but for a lot of fans, Worlds’ Finest conjures images of Batman and Superman, not Huntress and Power Girl. Then I looked at the book’s actual logo. Although the official name of the comic is Worlds’ Finest, you can’t tell that by looking at the cover. It looks the way I’ve written it in the title of this post: Huntress/Power Girl: Worlds’ Finest. That qualifies, as far as I’m concerned.

But is it any good?

Worlds’ Finest corrects the biggest problem I had with its predecessor Huntress, also written by Paul Levitz. That miniseries had some fun stuff in it, but my complaint was that it wasn’t really about anything other than Stop That Generic Villain. The Huntress could have been switched out for any other hero without changing the story in a meaningful way. In Worlds’ Finest, Levitz makes the comic about his two heroes. As much as being about fighting bad guys, this is the story of Huntress and Power Girl’s friendship and their attempt to adjust to the new world they’ve landed in. That’s a huge improvement.

As a reflection of that, there’s a lot of banter between the two women. Unfortunately, it’s not up to the standard for that kind of thing set by Gail Simone on Birds of Prey. I’m tempted to let Levitz off the hook for not being able to perfectly replicate what worked about Black Canary and Oracle, but I don’t know if I should. As much as I realize it’s not completely fair, it’s also impossible to read Huntress and Power Girl’s quipping without comparing it to the easy relationship in Simone’s series. Black Canary and Oracle felt like real friends and their conversations felt like a natural part of their relationship. Huntress and Power Girl call each other “BFF” and say things like, “You go, girl.” I appreciate the effort, but even without the Birds of Prey comparison, their dialogue doesn’t feel real.

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Fox, Tobey Maguire to adapt Doug TenNapel’s Cardboard

Tobey Maguire’s Material Pictures is teaming with Fox Animation and Wedgeworks to adapt Doug TenNapel’s latest project Cardboard (I reviewed the graphic novel last month). TenNapel himself will executive produce alongside Material Pictures, with Fox Animation Chris Wedge also producing. Wedge directed the first Ice Age, and has been the voice of Scrat the squirrel throughout the hit series. He also executive produced Ice Age: The Meltdown.

According to Variety, Wedge may also direct the film, and if the project moves forward there’s a possibility that Maguire will voice one of the main characters (most likely Mike, the out-of-work dad who buys his son some magic cardboard for his birthday).

Two other TenNapel graphic novels are currently in development at other studios: Monster Zoo at Paramount Pictures, and Ghostopolis at Disney.

Hi-res look at Charlie Adlard’s variant covers for Walking Dead magazine

Earlier this month, Titan Magazines offered retailers a shot at exclusive variant covers created by Charlie Adlard for the first issue of The Walking Dead: The Official Magazine, a new quarterly publication that offers an inside look at the acclaimed comic series created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Adlard, and the hit television drama it spawned. Now Titan has provided Robot 6 with high-resolution images of the winning covers for Comickaze Comics (5517 AB Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego) and Wade’s Comic Madness (8750 New Falls Road, Levittown, Pennsylvania).

The magazine arrives in stores Oct. 23, on the heels of the Season 3 premiere of the AMC television series, but New York Comic Con attendees will have a chance to buy the issue with a convention-exclusive cover on Oct. 11.

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Balloonless | Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero

While there’s a lot to be said for getting there first, is the fact that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman was the first superhero, the character that created a unique and endlessly tweakable template and founded an increasingly pervasive genre, the only reason the Man of Steel occupies the unique place he does in our culture?

In his new book Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero, Larry Tye pens a biography of sorts of the character, biographies being something Tye has more than a little experience writing (his previous works include biographies of Satchel Paige and Edward L. Bernays). Given that focus, Tye doesn’t really set about answering the question of why Superman is our most enduring hero, a question that seems particularly relevant as Supes has ceded the title of most popular hero to his one-time imitator Batman in a lot of the most pertinent metrics (comic book sales and box office earnings, for example).

Tye naturally alights on some of the most oft-cited reasons, including the psychological appeal of the incredible amount of wish-fulfillment Siegel and Shuster imbued their hero with — from being stronger than everyone else and able to fly to successfully leading a double life in which one persona is as accepted as the other persona dreams of being to the character’s unique relationship with the woman of his dreams — and the way the hero almost literally wrapped himself in the American flag and made himself synonymous with his home country.

While recounting the history of Superman, however, Tye reveals another obvious but less obsessed over reason. By a mixture of luck and his owners’ relentless pursuit of profits, Superman has managed to experiment with and conquer emerging media almost as immediately as they became viable — from the brand-new comic books of the late 1930s he segued easily into comic strips, and his was an early and huge hit radio program. He was in movie theaters with both cartoons and serials. He was on television in the 1950s, and between reruns and new shows, he never really left — live-action or animation or both at once, Superman is and always has been a television mainstay. Then, of course, there were feature films — Hollywood is riding a still-cresting wave of superhero blockbusters, and the next Superman feature is due next year, but there were Superman movies a full decade before there were superhero movies.

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Rucka and Williams originally were set for Wonder Woman: Earth One

Has anyone actually seen Grant Morrison and Lex Luthor in the same place at the same time?

While I don’t think there have been any official announcements about it, word is trickling out that Grant Morrison’s “putting the sex back into Wonder Woman” project is going to be Wonder Woman: Earth One. Bleeding Cool poses it as a question, but on the most recent 3 Chicks Review Comics podcast, Greg Rucka confirms it. He also says the gig was originally going to be his.

“I, at one point, was supposed to write Wonder Woman: Earth One,” he says. “ J.H. [Williams] was going to draw it.” Unfortunately, “I was told I was not going to do it. Dan DiDio called me and told me he was giving it to someone else. And I said if you take that away from me I can no longer work for you because I have taken many a job for you, sir, on the promise of doing this and now you’re taking it away and I can no longer accept your promises any more. He had his reasons for doing it; this is not me throwing stones. This is just the way things shook out.”

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Jazan Wild’s attorney clarifies C&D demands, explains lawsuit

Carnival of Souls #1

Robot 6 reported Tuesday that comics creator Jazan Wild had sent cease-and-desist demands to book reviewers who posted excerpts of Carnival of Souls, a fantasy novel whose title is the basis of his recent trademark-infringement lawsuit against publisher HarperCollins. A spirited discussion followed in the comments, drawing in Wild (aka Jason Barnes) and his wife Susan Barnes.

Now Wild’s attorney Ted Shiells of Shiells Law Firm in Dallas has contacted Robot 6 with a statement to clarify Wild’s emails to reviewers — “Mr. Wild was not threatening to sue any of these persons. He only intended to make them aware of his trademark rights in CARNIVAL OF SOULS, to minimize the confusion he has already suffered,” Shiells said — and to address some of the questions and criticisms raised in the comments thread.

Wild, who gained attention in 2010 when he sued NBC and the producers of Heroes claiming they’d ripped off his idea for a “carnival of lost souls and outcasts,” accuses HarperCollins of intentionally using Carnival of Souls as the title of Melissa Marr’s new young-adult novel in an effort to create confusion between that book and his own 2005-2006 comic series and related works.

Shiells’ statement, which can be read below, explains the differences between trademark classifications, and underscores that while the title of a single book cannot be trademarked, the title of a series can be. However, there still appears to be some question whether HarperCollins ever planned Carnival of Souls to be the name of Marr’s forthcoming series. (Also in question: If Wild wasn’t threatening to sue bloggers, what exactly was the purpose of the cease-and-desist notices, which by their very nature are a threat of legal action; and what standing does he have to demand that websites remove excerpts of a book for which he holds no copyright. To Sheills’ credit, he apologized for any misunderstanding, but the whole situation is perplexing.)

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Amazon enters the digital comics world with Blackburn Burrow

The online retail giant Amazon, which already has a publishing arm of its own, has added digital comics to its portfolio with the release of Blackburn Burrow, a comic that is — they make no bones about it — a movie pitch. In fact, the comic originated as a screenplay in Amazon Studios, which is a sort of crowdsourcing commons where people can upload scripts, videos and other projects, and those with the best feedback rise to the top of the heap, apparently. Amazon has a number of projects from Amazon Studios in development, although none are in actual production yet, but it’s early days for them.

Blackburn Burrow was produced by 12 Gauge Comics, an actual comics publisher, and the creative team of writer Ron Marz and artist Matthew Dow Smith has some serious comics cred. I actually read the comic: It’s not bad, but it doesn’t really rise above its genre. It’s a horror comic set during the Civil War, featuring a blind ex-soldier who starts off killing some kind of a witch and then gets sent by the War Department to investigate mysterious doings in a small Georgia town. The art is serviceable — honestly, it looks like it was done in a hurry, but Smith has a deft style and it’s very readable. A lot of horror comics load up the panels with details and gore, but his restrained hand suggests he is going for story over effects. So far, the comic hasn’t broken any new ground, but it’s entertaining enough.

At the end of the comic (which is hosted on Graphicly and can also be read on the Kindle) there’s a link to an online survey, and if you complete the survey, Amazon will send you a $5 gift card. The survey is pretty painless, but there are a lot of questions about the comic so don’t try to cheat and skip the required reading.

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