Current Transmissions

A look at Francis Manapul’s sketches and layouts for The Flash

The first collected volume of the New 52 era of The Flash has hit shelves, and on its blog, DC Comics is showcasing rough layouts by artist and co-writer Francis Manapul. And they’re gorgeous.

In comic stores now (and in bookstores later this month), The Flash, Vol. 1: Move Forward collects the first eight issues of the run by Manapul and co-writer/colorist Brian Buccellato and doesn’t spare on the the extra features, with an inside look at layouts and sketches done by Manapul — some of which are being rolled out on DC’s blog (and below).

In the new wave of creators and runs from the New 52 relaunch, Manapul’s work on The Flash has been a standout for both its art and writing. As most of DC’s marketing is geared toward writers and story developments, it’s a welcome change to see the publisher leaning so heavily on the artistic component.

After years in the industry, Manapul seemed to come of age at DC, first with his work on the Superboy story inside Adventure Comics with writer Geoff Johns, then on the Flash title with Johns, and now on the New 52 Flash title. Much in the way Scott Snyder has become one of DC’s top writers, Manapul is emerging as one of the publisher’s leading artists.

Getting back to the subject of these excellent layouts, DC promises to post more on its blog later this week.

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Drawing sound in The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song

I don’t really need to waste words telling you guys how special comics are, and of the unique artistic alchemy that goes on in their creation and their reading, in which verbal and visual components fuse and synthesize, and the readers finish, almost animate the pages in his or her own imagination. You guys know all that; you read these things all the time.

What you may not think about as much, because I know I don’t, is something that comics can have a lot of trouble dealing with: Sound. Aside from the rustling of the pages, there’s no sound involved in reading comics, and the writers and artists have to get pretty inventive when it comes to trying to include sound in their comics narrative…at least if they want to do so effectively.

In Frank M. Young and David Lasky’s The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song, a comics biography of the massively influential early 20th-century music group, sound is obviously something that’s rather important. Music is the thing that binds the main characters together; it’s what first brought young Sara to the attention of her husband A.P. Carter, it’s what they did with Sara’s cousin Maybelle, it’s what obsessed A.P. to the point that he neglected Sara, it’s the legacy the family left behind, and it’s the reason the book exists in the first place.

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Robot 6 Q&A | Joe Harris talks about Great Pacific

You saw our preview of Great Pacific #2, by Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo, but if you’re curious for more, Comic Book Resources posted a sneak peek of the debut issue in August. The comic struck me as being a perfect science-fiction story, with an intriguing high-tech premise and plenty of human hubris to make things go wrong, so I asked Harris to talk a bit about the genesis of his Image Comics series, how he developed the idea, and his original attempt to fund it via Kickstarter. Great Pacific debuts Wednesday.

Robot 6: The idea of someone colonizing the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is pretty freaky. What was your inspiration?

Joe Harris: The idea for this series sprang from a few places at once, honestly. First of all, just learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch itself got my imagination spinning. I mean, how could this monstrosity exist? Why isn’t the world banding together to clean it up? All pretty obvious questions I’m sure most people come to when they first learn about the reality of this environmental blight.

But my thoughts quickly turned to the speculative fiction potential.

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DC Comics’ digital sales have nearly tripled

Two interesting numbers have emerged out of DC Entertainment’s announcement that its monthly titles are finally available on Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store — and if it’s one thing you rarely see in discussions of digital comics, it’s numbers.

In a pair of interviews with Hank Kanalz, DC’s senior vice president of digital, CNET and VentureBeat reveal the publisher has nearly doubled tripled its sales of digital comics: To be more specific, a comparison between January through September 2011 and January through September 2012 shows an increase of 197 percent. In that same time, print sales grew 12 percent, which CNET characterizes as “a highly unusual metric given that digital sales have the reputation for undercutting physical sales in other media.”

Of course, we have no number by which to gauge that growth; it could be double 50,000 downloads or 500,000, for all we know. However, Kanalz gets a little more specific when he says August’s Justice League #12, featuring the highly publicized kiss between Wonder Woman and Superman, was the fastest-ever to each 10,000 comics sold digitally. It’s presumably surpassed that number in the more than two months since its release, but we’ll probably never know by how much.

However, CNET suggests that by using the issue’s estimated print sales (160,000), “we can start making some educated guesses about digital sales — at least for popular titles.” I’m not so sure about that, considering the amount of media attention given the kiss, but it’s certainly a start.

Preview: Great Pacific #2

Joe Harris’ Image Comics’ series Great Pacific, illustrated by Martin Morazzo, is based on an intriguing idea: Chas Worthington III, the scion of an oil family, stakes a claim to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and begins a campaign to have it recognized as a sovereign nation. In the first issue, which due out next week, Chas begins his adventure by faking his own death and heading out to the patch; this preview from the second issue follows Chas as he starts to explore the patch, which he has dubbed “New Texas.”

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Previews: What Looks Good for January

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.

As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #1

Graeme McMillan

Doctor Who: Prisoners of Time #1 (of 12): I’m a sucker for Doctor Who, I think I’ve said that before, right …? No surprise, then, that I’m very much looking forward to this year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the BBC science-fiction show, with each issue spotlighting a different incarnation of the character. That Simon Fraser is providing art helps a lot, too; I’ve been a big fan of his “Nikolai Dante” work for 2000AD for a while. (IDW Publishing, $3.99)

One Trick Rip-Off/Deep-Cuts hardcover: Speaking of things that I’m a big fan of, Paul Pope easily fits that bill, so this enhanced reprint of his Dark Horse graphic novel — with more than 150 pages of rare and unseen work from the same period, including his Supertrouble manga — is far too tempting to pass up. (Image Comics, $29.99)

Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness #1 (of 4): I was very impressed with Star Trek: Countdown back in 2009, and the way it teased the then-upcoming J.J. Abrams reboot without giving too much away, so I’m looking forward to see if this prologue to this summer’s sequel is just as fun. (IDW, $3.99)

Star Wars #1: Brian Wood and Star Wars feel like an odd pairing in my head, but everything I’ve read about this new ongoing series set after the first movie (which is to say, Episode IV these days) seems completely up my alley, and the 5-year-old within me is completely sold on the chance to see more stories set in the “true” Star Wars era. (Dark Horse, $3.50)

Young Avengers #1: Kieron GIllen and Jamie McKelvie pairing on anything is pretty much a must-read for me, but seeing them let loose on Marvel’s teen characters and seemingly determined to make them actually seem like teenagers. … Yeah, this looks like it may be one of my favorite superhero books in quite some time, I suspect. (Marvel, $2.99)

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Comics A.M. | Hank Kanalz on DC’s digital expansion; T. Samuval dies

DC Comics digital

Digital comics | Hank Kanalz, DC Entertainment senior vice president of digital, talks about DC’s decision to offer its single-issue comics on a variety of platforms, including Kindle, Nook, and iTunes, rather than exclusively through comiXology and its branded apps (which run on the comiXology platform): “It’s not a move [away from comiXology], it’s an expansion. My charter is to go as wide as possible, and to expand to as many readers as possible. That’s what this is.” [CNET]

Passings | Indian cartoonist T. Samuval died last week in Delhi at age 86. Tom Spurgeon writes, “He was best known for his pocket cartoons, contributed under the nom de plume ‘Samuel.’ Pocket cartoons were a development of British newspapers in the 1930s: single-column cartoons on a current news story designed in many cases to lighten the severity of bad or unpleasant news. Many, like Samuval’s, became recurring features with a specific character at their forefront.” [DNA, The Comics Reporter]

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Art for Sandy Relief adds a whole slew of new auctions

Page donated by Ross Campbell

Earlier this week I spoke with Rich Ginter and Jim Viscardi about Art for Sandy Relief, an effort to raise money for the Steven Siller Tunnels to Towers Hurricane Relief effort. Rich and Jim, as well as a whole lot of generous artists and fans, have been busy since Sunday, and they’ve kicked off a whole bunch of new art auctions. Here’s a rundown of what you can bid on; you can also browse them on eBay if you’d like:

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The comic book LP cover art parodies of Uwe De Witt


German artist Uwe De Witt draws mainstream comics characters in an expressionistic but commercial style. He’s clearly a fan of the comics from the schools of Ben Templesmith, Bill Sienkiewicz and Simon Bisley. As well as publishing new images of Spawn every Monday, he regularly posts pastiches of old album art with comic book characters inserted into them. Some work better than others, when the original cover image and character choice make sense together, or as a visual pun: other times it’s just drawing bloomin’ X-Force for its own sake, really. But when it works, it really works. More examples below. (via Dangerous Minds)

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Obama comics could actually evolve into something useful

Comics using current events can do more than reference Watchmen

And so another U.S. presidential election comes to a close. While the incumbent was re-elected, the comics industry didn’t seem to embrace the season like it did in 2008.

Four years ago, the bestselling comic book issue of the year was The Amazing Spider-Man #583, by a wide margin — by such a wide margin that it ended up being the bestselling issue of the decade with more than half a million copies ordered, according to numbers cruncher John Jackson Miller. In fact, this became such a thing that there was nearly a boutique industry of comic books featuring Barack Obama. From Savage Dragon and Army of Darkness to Bomb Queen and Licensable Bear (the first Obama comic), it seemed the president was everywhere. IDW Publishing released an entire line of biographical comics on the presidential candidates, and similar titles were also published by Antarctic Press and Bluewater Productions. The latter’s efforts were so successful that the company continues to mine that niche.

Four years later, this mini-genre has all but vanished. Last year, BOOM! Studios attempted to lead the charge with Decision 2012, the first straw poll conducted through comics: Pre-orders determined which candidates would get their comics published, with the one receiving the highest print run being declared the winner. While a creative idea, the project may have been a victim of poor timing, as the event was held so early in the campaign — it was announced in August 2011 — that there wasn’t a clear line-up of Republican candidates. Despite all of her teasing, Sarah Palin never entered the race, yet she was included among the list of comics. In fact, on the same day the one-time GOP vice presidential nominee announced she wouldn’t be running on the same day that BOOM! revealed the results of its straw poll. Out of the 10 biographical comics offered for pre-order, just four met the benchmark of 1,500 pre-orders: Obama, Palin, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney came in fifth, but just below the benchmark, so he and the five others never got their comics.

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DC’s monthly comics come to Kindle, iTunes and Nook

DC Comics is expanding its digital reach by making its full line of periodicals available for download from Amazon’s Kindle Store, Apple’s iBookstore and Barnes & Noble’s Nook Store.

With the move, which begins today, DC becomes the only comics publisher to offer its line of titles across all major e-bookstore platforms. The company previously had sold digital editions of its monthly comics exclusively through comiXology.

“We were the first to offer our entire comic book line same-day digital and now we are the first to offer fans the convenience of multiple download options,” Co-Publisher Jim Lee said in a statement.

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Art Barrage | Jason Bard Yarmosky, Sho Murase and more


Ah, the cruel end to Shakespeare’s seven ages of man, from Jacque’s “All the world’s a stage” monologue in As You Like It: “Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”. The painter Jason Bard Yarmosky seems to have come to a similar conclusion about the links between the very old and the very young, populating his canvasses with a cast of the elderly (his main models being his own grandparents) dressed in the paraphernalia of childhood: cowboy-and-Indian gear, ballet tutus and superhero costumes. Consider it a little glimpse into the retirement homes of the future, populated by the cosplayers of today. More from Yarmosky’s “Elder Kinder” series below, as well as work by Sho Murase, James Hance and others.

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Unpublished manga by teenaged Osamu Tezuka discovered

An unpublished manga drawn by the legendary Osamu Tezuka when he was a teenager was discovered at a used bookstore, where it was purchased in April by Tezuka Productions for $37,000.

According to Anime News Network, which translated reports from 47News and FNN, the 19-page comic was created immediately following World War II and just before Tezuka made his professional debut. The Astro Boy creator had given the work to a former classmate, who held onto it for more than 60 years. Harumichi Mori, head of the Tezuka Productions archives, said they were unaware of the comic until its discovery at the bookstore.

Tezuka, often referred to as the “father of manga,” passed away in 1989 at age 60.

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Is the world ready for a Ra’s al Ghul-inspired hip hop album?

Following a contentious presidential election, what better to bring the country together than a hip hop concept album inspired by a fictional centuries-old eco-terrorist? Nothing, I say!

Luckily a divided nation now has Ra’s al Ghul, released this week by Los Angeles-based MC/producer Frank John James (and available for download here).

“Loosely based on the DC comic book villain, traditionally found opposite Batman,” he writes on his website. “I take you inside the mind of a man trying to balance good and evil, hoping to bring an end to suffering through any means necessary. About midway through, I spend four tracks paying homage to the origins story found in the 1992 comic Birth of the Demon.”

The 15 tracks feature such lyrics as “Like Two-Face, who brought down countless individuals/With nothing but a book of broken laws and judge criminals” and “Born in the 14th century to a nomadic family/Handed me nothing of interest, but the sand under my feet.” Catchy and geeky!

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Comics A.M. | Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi cut from Indian reality show

Aseem Trivedi

Creators | Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi’s turn on in the reality show Bigg Boss seems to have ended badly: Trivedi was tossed off the show, perhaps due to political pressure, and his political commentary did not make the final cut. In true reality-show fashion, he left in a cloud of acrimony, saying that his fellow contestant Salman Khan “overstepped the bounds of decency” with another cast member, Sapna Bhavanani. And apparently the producers did not deliver on their promise to allow him to use the show as a platform for his views: “I and Sapna were constantly talking about corruption and women`s empowerment inside the house, but after coming out, I was zapped to learn that none of those things were telecast. … These guys lied to us. We were told – `you will not have to do any naach gana [melodrama] and you will just have to put forth your views on revolution, society and corruption.` But it was all humbug!” [India TV News]

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