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Comics A.M. | Singapore cartoonist arrested; crowdfunding scam

Leslie Chew cartoon

Leslie Chew cartoon

Legal | Singapore cartoonist Leslie Chew was arrested last week on charges of sedition, held over the weekend, and released on S$10,000 bail. His cellphone and computer were also confiscated. The charges stem from two cartoons on Chew’s Demon-cratic Singapore Facebook page. [Yahoo! News Singapore]

Crowdfunding | Chris Sims tells the truly bizarre tale of a crowdfunding scam: Someone copied Ken Lowery and Robert Wilson IV’s Kickstarter campaign for Like a Virus, including the video, and made it into an IndieGoGo campaign, presumably planning to pocket the money and run. [Comics Alliance]

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In fight over ‘super hero’ trademark, it’s David vs. Goliath(s)

world without superheroesThe New York Daily News casts a spotlight on Ray Felix, the small-press publisher who’s challenging the joint claim of DC Comics and Marvel to the “super hero” trademark, and comes away with some interesting details:

  • The two publishers have prevented at least 35 people from using “super hero,” or some variation, since they were granted the mark in 1980 for toys and in 1981 for comic books. (You may remember that in 2004 GeekPunk changed the name of its series Super Hero Happy Hour to Hero Happy Hour following objections by DC and Marvel.)
  • Although Felix admits he’s unlikely to win his case before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property tells the newspaper that Marvel and DC’s joint ownership “violates the basic tenet of trademark law.” “A trademark stands for a single source of origin, not two possible sources of origin,” Ron Coleman argues. “If the public understands that the word ‘superhero’ could come from A or B, then by definition that’s a word and not a trademark.”
  • Even if the appeal board were to find in Felix’s favor, it would only mean he can retain his registration for his series A World Without Superheroes. Revocation of Marvel and DC’s trademark would require a costly civil lawsuit.

Felix’s dispute with the comics giants dates back to September 2010, when he received a cease-and-desist letter after registering a trademark for his series. Following more a year and a half of exchanges between Felix and the companies’ attorneys, DC Comics and Marvel Characters Inc. in March 2012 filed a formal opposition with the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

Grumpy Old Fan | ‘B&B,’ and bridging the fan/pro divide

The great stone face

The great stone face

After four installments, Comic Book Resources’ monthly “B&B” feature, in which DC Comics Editor-in-Chief Bob Harras and Editorial Director Bobbie Chase answered questions from readers and CBR’s Josie Campbell, is no more. Jerry Ordway’s work situation, and controversies generally, were apparently to blame. Of course, DC is free not to participate in such things, and CBR is likewise free to investigate such controversies on its own. Still, the whole thing only highlights the problems DC has had in connecting successfully with fans.

Now, it may be more accurate to say DC has had problems connecting successfully with fans who are vocal about their negative opinions of the company. For all I know, DC may be quite popular with whatever audience it has targeted. Regardless, despite its constant PR presence, today’s DC seems a lot more guarded than it has been; and I think that can only hurt it in the long run.

Ironically, part of the problem is the corporate-comics news cycle. Each week’s worth of DC books has a couple of promotional features, namely the “All Access” editorial and the new “Channel 52″ two-pager. Beyond that (and probably more frequently than once a week) the company issues press releases and facilitates interviews for various news sites. Furthermore, each month’s solicitations advertise what’s coming out at least two months in the future; and during convention season the company can manage its particular messages in person. That’s a lot of information for a company whose bread and butter come from a few dozen monthly 20-page story installments.

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Quote of the Day | ‘I was a martyr to superherogenesis’

china mieville“Once, many years ago, as a very young child, I was delighted to discover a pile of comics in an attic. They featured a blond, orange-shirted superhero who could speak to fish. ‘Ah,’ I thought, settling down to read. ‘This must be this “Superman” of whom I’ve heard so much.’ I was intrigued that so many of his adventures were maritime.

As the years passed, I got a bit more systematic, but I never lost the excitement at the sheer chaotic variety of costumes, monikers and powers I might find fighting for justice, every time I opened a comic. It was always a surprise. This addiction to the proliferation of the superheroic is something many of us never grow out of.

In fact, inventing superheroes is one of the basic games of childhood. Tie a towel around your neck and come up with a powerset, all the abilities you think you’ll need. Justify that hot mess as coherent by some ingenious, tendentious argument. Finally, give your wonder a name. (Electrical blast and tiger stripes? Electrotiger!) This is what we do. Like countless kids around the world, I was a martyr to superherogenesis.”

– acclaimed author China Mieville, discussing Dial H and his early exposure to DC Comics canon

Square Enix shuttering digital manga sites in U.S. and France

square enix

Japanese video game and manga publisher Square Enix will shut down its North American and French digital-manga websites on May 23 following a rocky few weeks that saw a projected corporate loss of about $140 million for the fiscal year, the resignation of its president and layoffs in the Los Angeles office.

Crunchyroll reports users who have already purchased manga will be able to continue reading those titles for an unspecified time. A post on the Square Enix Manga website notifies visitors of scheduled maintenance on May 23 but makes no mention of the closing.

Announced at Comic-Con International 2010, the North American store launched that December with volumes of Fullmetal Alchemist, Soul Eater, The Record of a Fallen Vampire and Yumekui Kenbun: Nightmare Inspector.

The Square Enix news arrives a little more than a month after JManga will shut down its online manga portal on May 30. ROBOT 6 contributor Brigid Alverson has analysis at Good E-Reader.

‘Saga’s’ Lying Cat makes her TV debut on ‘Supernatural’

Pac-Man Fever

I was only sort of watching Supernatural last night, which explains how I missed that geek-favorite actress Felicia Day wore a T-shirt featuring one of the best new character in recent comics history: Lying Cat from Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples’ Image Comics series Saga. Luckily a tipster at The Mary Sue was far more observant.

According to Day, the shirt was the idea of writer Robbie Thompson, and a particularly inspired one at that, considering her character Charlie Bradbury starts off her reunion with the Winchester brothers with a lie. (In case you’re unfamiliar with Saga, Lying Cat is the enormous feline companion of the bounty hunter The Will who can detect whether anyone around her is being untruthful.)

Now the question is, where can fans get their hands on one of those shirts? Maybe at that weekday comic-book convention in Topeka, Kansas, that Charlie mentioned. Wait, no, that was a lie.

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Attacking ‘Mars Attacks IDW’

mars attacks idw coverIDW may be one of the Big Five publishers in the direct market — that is, one of the five publishers whose titles are listed separately from those of the hoi polloi in Diamond Comic Distributors’ Previews catalog. But unlike the Biggest Two, IDW’s line consists mainly of comics based on a variety of licensed  concepts*, and therefore do not  feature shared settings like the DC Universe or the Marvel Universe.

You’d think that would prohibit the company from doing the sorts of line-wide crossover stories that DC and Marvel have been pumping out with regularity, but IDW has found a pretty clever way to have its licensed comics cake and eat its intra-company crossovers as well, by dreaming up a fairly generic threat, and then having that threat appear in a bunch of unrelated comics whose characters never really meet.

Rather than all the characters teaming up to fight the same threat on the same battlefield at the same time, as in your Crisis on Infinite Earths or Civil War or whatnot, IDW’s crossovers are a bit more like individual battles in large-scale wars taking place in different dimensions.

So, for example, 2011’s Infestation crossover pitted zombies from the publisher’s Zombies Vs. Robots comics against characters from G.I. Joe, Transformers, The Ghostbusters and Star Trek, in two-issue miniseries set in different universes. That was followed by Infestation 2, in which Lovecraftian space-god-monster-things invaded the home universes of G.I. Joe, Transformers, Dungeons & Dragons, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and 30 Days of Night.

More recently, IDW published a much smaller-scale, simpler crossover story of sorts in Mars Attacks …, in which the little green skull-faced men of the 1960s Topps collectible cards (and 1996 Tim Burton movie) “invaded” comics featuring a comically diverse group of licensed characters. For the more patient among us, it arrived in trade format this month, in a collection titled Mars Attacks IDW.

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, it’s C2E2; a preview of TCAF

C2E2

C2E2

Publishing | In advance of Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada discuss who’s reading their comics, and the creative challenges of writing about characters who have been around for generations. Asked if he was the custodian of contemporary myths, DiDio answered, “You know, I feel like a renter, to be honest. I’m in charge at this moment, and the goal is to keep these myths healthy enough so that, eventually, you can pass them down to the next person who rents them.” [Chicago Tribune]

Conventions | Christopher Butcher, the organizer of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, talks about how the show has grown and what to expect this year, including an interesting slate of international creators, from David B. to Taiyo Matsumoto. [The Comics Reporter]

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Cartoonists gang up on illegal guns

cartoonists-guns

Cartoonist Ruben Bolling, creator of Tom the Dancing Bug, rounded up 23 cartoonists to contribute their work to an animated ad for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of mayors, led by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, that is advocating for “common-sense measures that will close deadly gaps in our gun laws.”

The Mayors Against Illegal Guns ads eschew detailed discussion of the issues in favor of a simple images of people making an emotional appeal. This particular ad follows that format with cartoon characters, some familiar (the teenagers from Zits, the Family Circus family, Jason and his dad from FoxTrot), some more generic.

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Comics-based movies: Breaking ‘the book was better’ rule

iron-man-poster-2

“Demon in a Bottle” will probably be better since well, you know…

Are you getting excited? New teasers and trailers are being released almost every day now. The countdown to Summer Movie Season is officially on, and the big blockbusters adapting comics are looking promising. Iron Man 3 has an armada of armors flying around; can’t really go wrong there. The Wolverine has ninjas as far as the eye can see. And the bearded and brooding Man of Steel might even end up being good. Throw in a little Kick-Ass 2 and RED 2, sprinkle with R.I.P.D. and 300: Rise of an Empire, and top it off with 2 Guns, and you’ve got yourself one fun summer.

While we still get clunkers, the ratio of good to suck has definitely improved. It used to be that the old chestnut response to a movie adapted from a novel could be more often than not applied to movies adapted from comics: The book was better. And it’s often still true. But there are times when the movies do it better than comics, and while that’s great for the filmmakers and audiences, in a way it’s an indictment on the comics-makers.

Comics offer more boundless creativity than almost any medium. With comics, there’s no studio executive, no creation-by-committee made up of shareholders and board members with less experience creating and telling stories than their companies’ interns. It’s why Tony Stark being an alcoholic doesn’t fly with Disney and was removed from Iron Man 3. Comics can still include collaboration and compromise but they can just as easily be the result of a single voice. Even with the most heavy-handed editorially mandated comics, they’re still created by a fraction of people needed to make a Hollywood movie. Comics are generally more spontaneous, imaginative and clever than most major studio movies. But sometimes, Hollywood gets the jump on comics.

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Watch incredible fan-made title sequence for ‘Man of Steel’

man-of-steel-sequence

I can’t help but admire the devotion to a comic book or a character that leads some fans to create tributes in the form of tribute films, webseries, or trailers for motion pictures that will probably never exist — and I wish I had that sort of passion for a work of fiction (and, y’know, the talent and resources to do something like that).

Luckily for us, however, the folks at the production company Will & Tale don’t lack in any of those areas, and gleefully undertook a three-month “passion project” to create an unofficial title sequence for director Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel.

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Gilbert Hernandez’s ‘Marble Season’ evokes childhood pleasures

Marble Season

Marble Season

What is it about childhood that makes us forget about ours so easily? Whether consciously or not, we seem all too eager to not only put our younger years behind us, but obliterate them from our memories. Even as parents we frequently grow exasperated and angry with our own children, seemingly incapable of remembering what it was like to be little.

While many cartoonists are cited for their “childlike” abilities, precious few are able to accurately convey what it actually feels like to be a child – what makes up  the significant joys and anxieties of your average 12- or 6- or 3-year-old and how they best express those complicated emotions.

There are a few, however. Lynda Barry is one, Kazuo Umezu is another. Add to that short list Gilbert Hernandez, as evidenced by his latest book, the excellent Marble Season.

It’s the episodic story of Huey, a the middle child of a moderately sized family living in California in the mid-1960s. His adventures, such as they are, consist of avoiding scary things, like neighborhood bullies or the crazy lady in the spooky house down the road; discovering cool stuff, like Mars Attacks cards; and inventing and playing games with the kids in the neighborhood. Taking a page from Peanuts, we never see Huey’s parents or any of his teachers (indeed we never see him in a classroom). The entire book is staged and presented from the viewpoint of Huey, his brothers and their friends.

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Grow a big ol’ beard, win some art from Stephen Collins

gigantic-beard-that-was-evil-stephen-collins-cape-011One of the highlights of every comics reading week for me is on a Saturday morning, when the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper has a new strip in its magazine supplement by Stephen Collins (they’re all available to see on the website). Collins won their Observer/Cape graphic short story competition in 2010, which resulted in a book deal with Jonathan Cape, the fruits of which is the upcoming The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil.

As you can tell from his weekly strips, Collins is something of a master at finding new angles to view the world from, as likely to see the absurd and the unsettling as the humorous. Liberated from the joke-of-the-week short form, Collins has produced a rich allegorical work with a certain Kafkaesque quality, with the story told in a rolling, rhyming blank verse (you can see examples on both his blog and this preview at It’s Nice That.

He’s also produced a great director’s commentary feature for Joe Gordon’s FPI blog that goes some way to show the scale of the hard work that goes into producing such a hefty end product.  It’s telling that Cape have secured a quote from Raymond Briggs for the back cover. Like so much of Briggs’ own work, this book has a timeless, ageless quality, that could be as enjoyed as much as an entertainment by children or as a satire by adults.

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So your Macbook isn’t quite ‘comic booky’ enough? Try this

MacBook-Superhero-Keyboard-Skin-2

This awesome-looking comics-themed Macbook keyboard skin has been doing the rounds on design blogs, but I saw it on HiConsumption. For an atrocious, eyes-on-the-keyboard, six-fingers-in-a-claw, typist such as myself, it’d be a nightmare. But it does look fantastic. It’s from Killer Duck Decals, and is available from its Etsy store.

The accompanying blurb shows them to be very witty people, indeed: “Zorro instead of Zatanna because I didn’t want to deal with the top hat, sorry”; “Our skins are meant to make your stuff look cooler, not make them bomb proof. So don’t go flashing them around in the bad part of town and skipping them across lakes because they do not grant your electronics super-powers.”

There’s a few inspired choices on this thing (check out the “Y” key), and a couple I’ll admit I’m baffled by. (What are the icons on the “O” and “D” keys referring to? I presume I’ll kick myself when someone points them out.)

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Dark Horse Digital offers 50 first issues for free

dark-horse-digital

To mark the second anniversary of Dark Horse Digital, the publisher is making 50 first issues available for free with a single click of the “Buy Now” button. Sure, it’s not nearly the magnitude of last month’s 700-issue offer from Marvel and comiXology, but remember what happened with that.

The digital giveaway gets you $168.50 worth of comics, ranging from the first issues of 1994’s Hellboy: Seeds of Destruction and 2002’s B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth to far more recent series, like The Massive, Mind MGMT and The Black Beetle: No Way Out.

Although no date is given for the end of the offer, Dark Horse cautions “this is a very limited time offer.” The publisher also announced this morning that it will offer comics from Dynamite Entertainment through its digital storefront.


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