Current Transmissions

Check out the Guardian’s awesome U.S. election comic

The U.K. newspaper The Guardian marked the U.S. Election Day with a short comic called America: Elect! that uses limited animation in some very effective ways. The comic is constructed as one continuous series of panels, and as the reader scrolls downward, elements move in and out of the picture — primary candidates get crossed out, a tiny Osama bin Laden falls from the sky, sign-carrying tea partiers pop into the panel.

The comic is credited to “Guardian US Interactive Team with Richard Adams and Erin McCann“; Adams is in the newspaper’s Washington, D.C., bureau, and McCann is a copy editor who recently wrote about New York Comic Con for the Guardian blog. It’s lighthearted and clever, and will take about five minutes to read. Of course, it’s also incomplete, as the comic was posted yesterday. The story says “stay tuned for the final chapter,” but it’s not clear where that’s going to be posted.

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The Middle Ground #128 | Redrawing the ground beneath your feet

This week sees the release in the United Kingdom of Rogue Trooper: Tales of Nu Earth Vol. 3, a collection of the final days of the original run of 2000AD‘s cloned science fiction soldier. Re-reading the book this weekend, it struck me how little the kid who read these strips at the time they were published appreciated some of the greatness they offered, how oddly ahead of its time Rogue Trooper was during the period these strips came from, and how surprisingly educational this book is for wonks like me who like to see how the comics sausage is made.

Let’s start with that greatness. Look at this art by Jose Ortiz:

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Decorate your fridge with art by Francis Tsai’s big toe

Illustrator Francis Tsai was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) a couple of years ago, but that hasn’t stopped him from creating art. He explains how he does it in an amazingly upbeat letter he recently sent to friends and fans:

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Food or Comics? | French fries or Freelancers

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

47 Ronin #1

Brigid Alverson

If I had $15, I’d spend the first $3.99 on the first issue of 47 Ronin, a retelling of a Japanese legend written by Mike Richardson and illustrated by Stan Sakai. I saw a preview of this and it looks phenomenal. Next up is my favorite soap opera, Life With Archie #24 ($3.99), in which Moose contemplates running for the Senate and The Archies reunite. This comic is consistently well written and the stories really drag me in. I’ll slap down another $3.99 for Popeye #7, because I’m a Roger Langridge fan. And because I love a bargain, I’ll finish up with Freelancers #1, a new series from BOOM! Studios that looks kinda fun — and hey, there’s a variant cover by Felipe Smith, one of my favorite manga artists.

If I had $30, I’d revert to my childhood and pick up the Doctor Who Annual ($12.99) from Penguin. When I was a kid, the British comics annuals were the high point of the holidays, and I’m pretty sure I have a vintage Doctor Who one tucked away somewhere. It’s probably aimed at kids but that just means I can share it with my nephew and nieces.

The splurge item to get this week is the new box set of Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind. This is Miyazaki’s longest manga by far, and the story continues after the movie ends. It’s going to be the same large format as Viz’s earlier box set, but the seven volumes are being bound as two this time. It’s $60, but I noticed Amazon is offering a steep discount, so I’ll add another splurge: Nickolai Dante: Sympathy for the Devil ($29.99), a story that ran in 2000AD. I saw artist Simon Fraser describe it at NYCC this way: “Nikolai Dante is a swashbuckling hero from the far, far future, the year 2666, where he is alternately working for and against the czar, and for his own family and against his family, and in the meantime trying to get as drunk and screw as many women as he possibly can.” Sold!

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WJC’s Harry Potter marathon pays dividends

The man, the legend, Warwick Johnson Cadwell watched the entire series of Harry Potter films with his family over the Halloween holiday period. Mass sketching ensued, as you can see below.

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Haunting story of two girls and UFOs wins U.K. short comic contest

A panel from Corban Wilkin's "But I Can't"

The winners of the Observer/Jonathan Cape/Comica Graphic Short Story Competition were announced over the weekend, and the top prize winner was no newcomer: Corban Wilkin is just 22, but he has participated in the contest four times.

“The only thing I’m sad about is that I won’t be able to enter again,” he told Rachel Cooke of The Observer. “I’ve loved doing it over the past few years. The brief is tricky – a very limited format and yet complete freedom of subject matter – but it’s a challenge I relished. Once you enter, your writing improves pretty quickly. Four pages is a small space in which to tell a proper story.”

Wilkin’s winning short story, “But I Can’t,” can be seen on the contest website or his own site. The story follows two girls, starting when they are 8 years old and share a fascination with UFOs and bringing them through their teens, as they take drastically different paths. He packs an amazing amount of story into just four pages, sketching the characters in a loose, expressive style with brush and ink and a limited color palette. Wilkin, who cites Craig Thompson and Seth as his influences, is also working on a longer graphic novel, and the prize money will be most welcome, he says, as the rent is due.

The runner-up is Steven Tillotson’s I, Yeti, in which the Abominable Snowman gets all philosophical.

(via Forbidden Planet)

DC and Siegel heirs face off in appeal of Superman copyright case

From Action Comics #1

The 9th Circuit heard two appeals Tuesday that could decide the bitter 15-year-old legal battle for control of the Man of Steel.

An attorney for DC Comics asked the three-judge panel to reverse a 2008 decision granting the heirs of Superman co-creator Jerry Siegel his portion of the copyright to Action Comics #1, arguing the family is reneging on a 2001 agreement that would have ensured the company’s ownership of the billion-dollar property.

DC has long argued that Siegel’s daughter Laura Siegel Larson walked away from a settlement deal that would’ve allowed the company to retain all rights to Superman in exchange for $3 million in cash and contingent compensation worth tens of millions. The publisher claims the heirs only withdrew from the settlement after attorney Marc Toberoff entered the picture, falsely asserting he had a $15 million offer for the rights from a billionaire investor (alleged to be Hollywood super-agent Ari Emanuel, brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel). However, a federal judge determined in 2008 that, without a formalized contract, there was no agreement.

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The Wimpy Kid goes digital

Last week saw the digital launch of Jeff Kinney’s comics/prose hybrid Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which can now be purchased from comiXology, either through its regular service or through its dedicated Wimpy Kid app, Kindle, Nook, or iBooks. The seventh volume, The Third Wheel, which is due out on Nov. 13, will be available digitally the same day as print. Abrams has created a special brand, Wimp-E-books, with its own logo, for the wildly popular series.

(Interestingly enough, the initial press release from Abrams, dated Oct. 15, didn’t mention any platforms, which seems like a grievous omission.)

You can still get the original edition of the book for free on the site where it first appeared, FunBrain.com. That’s where Kinney first published it, and it’s interesting to compare this first edition to the published versions — I took a look at the first few pages and the edits were obvious, and generally improvements over the original. It’s still pretty good though, and years ago, when I showed it to my daughter, who was maybe ten at the time and a bit of a reluctant reader, she took my computer away and read the whole thing in one sitting.

Comics A.M. | Police recover $19,000 in stolen comics

Crime

Crime | Police in Jackson, Mississippi, have recovered a comic-book collection valued at $19,000, and arrested two suspects in the burglary. [WJTV]

Legal | Gerry Giovinco questions why Marvel and DC Comics zealously defend their intellectual property rights, going so far as to sue a birthday party company that rented out lookalike costumes, but don’t even touch the many porn parodies of their comics that have sprung up in recent years. [CO2 Comics]

Comics | A Florida mother was upset to discover Chick tracts among her children’s trick-or-treat haul, saying the comics are racist and offensive. It’s the second time in as many weeks that the long-controversial evangelical comics have been publicly called out by a displeased parent. [KTNV]

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Talking Comics with Tim | Renée French on Bjornstrand

Bjornstrand

It’s been two years since I last interviewed Renée French, but the release in September of Bjornstrand from PictureBox provided a terrific excuse to catch up with her again. In addition to chatting about the limited-edition signed and numbered risograph novella, French explained how the release was part of a larger project as well as how it related to her ongoing (NSFW) webcomic at Study Group, Baby Bjornstrand.

Tim O’Shea: Are you more flattered or bewildered when some folks compare your work to David Lynch’s films (see Brian Warmoth’s recent review)?

Renée French: Oh, I’m flattered. Lynch is at the top of my list of favorite directors, and seeing Eraserhead for the first time in college was incredibly important to the way I made stuff at the time.

To ask the question that Tom Spurgeon meant to ask: Is this project named after Gunnar Bjornstrand?

Ha! Do I have to answer that?

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Isabel Samaras makes yesterday better with characters of today

“Pop surrealist” painter Isabel Samaras‘ solo exhibit “Making a Better Yesterday Today” opened Saturday at San Francisco’s Varnish Fine Art. The show features her interpretations of classic art with pop culture characters like Batman, Wonder Woman and the Planet of the Apes. She talks about it a bit on her blog where she describes how the exhibit uses QR technology to offer guests an artist’s commentary on the show:

If you have a smartphone with a QR (Quick Response) Reader App, you can listen to me yap a bit about each of the new paintings. Just scan the code on the wall by each piece and you’ll hear real actual thoughts that came out of my real actual head via my mouth.

Hit the jump to see a few samples of the paintings, then visit Varnish Fine Art’s site to see even more before joining me in lamenting that you don’t live in San Francisco. Unless of course you do live in San Francisco, in which case – by all means – rub it in.

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Adrian Tomine’s latest cover for The New Yorker is timely, poignant

Adrian Tomine has contributed the cover to the next issue of The New Yorker, and it’s a very powerful image. He tells the story behind it at the magazine’s Culture Desk blog:

“Where I was in Brooklyn, I don’t think I would have even known that there was a major storm happening,” says Adrian Tomine, the artist of next week’s cover, “Undeterred.” He continues,

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Matt Hawkins celebrates life by sharing his own struggle with suicide

Matt Hawkins

While many of us are preoccupied with Tuesday’s election, Guy Fawkes Day or what titles we’ll pick up at the comic store, Matt Hawkins’ mind is on something far more important, and far more personal: that day, exactly two years ago, when he nearly took his own life.

On his Facebook page, the president and chief operating officer of Top Cow Productions writes frankly about what brought him to the brink of suicide — divorce, a messy personal life and a belief that his children would be better off without him — and just how close he came to going through with it.

“Once I made the decision to do it I recall feeling an odd sense of relief and calm, which is kind of frightening in retrospect,” Hawkins writes. “I spent a few hours putting my affairs in order and wrote a series of emails that I saved as drafts to send all at once so I wouldn’t see the responses. I hand wrote a letter to my boys essentially saying this wasn’t their fault and that I loved them. I left the letter on my table with a copy of my will, etc. I then drove down to Santa Monica beach with my gun in my computer bag and went down and sat on one of the cliffs there overlooking the water. I couldn’t think of a better place to die. I sat there thinking about things still oddly calm and ultimately the thought of missing out on my boys future and the possible stigmatizing of them from my own cowardly death shook me out of the calm fog. I started shaking violently and changed my mind.”

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Six by 6 | Comics’ craziest fictional U.S. presidents

We’re in the final hours of the 2012 Presidental Election, and while it may seem comics are far removed from the nitty-gritty of politics, they’re not. Many presidents past and present have stepped into comics, from Barack Obama in The Amazing Spider-Man to a time-traveling Teddy Roosevelt in Tales From the Bully Pulpit. But comics also home to a number of shocking (and sometimes shockingly good) commanders-in-chief for the good ol’ U.S. of A. We thought, given the time of year, to rack our brains and come up with the six craziest heads of state for these United States.

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Old graphic novels live again — as the Avengers

My good friend Robin Brenner is an expert on graphic novels (she’s a former Eisner Awards judge) and the young-adult librarian at the Brookline, Massachusetts, public library. She’s also very clever with her hands, as you can see from these book hedgehogs she made from discarded books.

The basic algorithm for making book hedgehogs is pretty simple, but Robin took it a step further and came up with a whole array of personalized hedgehogs based on comics characters. Here are some close-ups, including the tiny bow and arrows for the Hawkeye hedgehog, and here is a gallery of more characters. It’s amazing what you can do with an old book, some duct tape, and plenty of imagination!

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