Current Transmissions

Rafael Grampá’s Massive variant covers are simply … colossal

Warren Ellis spotlights the gorgeous autumnal cover by Rafael Grampá and Dave Stewart for the third issue of The Massive, the upcoming environmental thriller from Brian Wood and Kristian Donaldson, reminding me that I’ve meant to point out just how fantastic their variants for the series are. Seriously even if I weren’t a fan of Wood and Donaldson’s work on Supermarket or intrigued by the concept of The Massive, I’d still pick up the new series just for these covers. (Dark Horse, can we get some posters?)

Grampá, who made a splash in 2008 with Mesmo Delivery, is also working on his own post-apocalyptic saga called Furry Water and the Sons of the Insurrection.

The Massive debuts June 13. In the meantime, check out Grampá and Stewart’s variant covers for the first three issues below.

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Tony Moore pits Popeye against Hellboy

Avengers Vs. X-Men is an epic battle between two storied properties, but Tony Moore has his own ideas for what would make a monumental face-off: Popeye versus Hellboy.

E.C Segar’s spinach-eating sailor and Mike Mignola’s stone-armed demon are a potent pairing, and Moore’s style blends both the cartoony nature of Popeye — forearms and all — with the pulpy Hellboy. Take a look below.

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20th Century Boys creator Naoki Urasawa to rock Japan Expo

Kenji Endo

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys is soaked in rock music, so it’s no surprise that Urasawa himself is not only a fan but a musician; he talks a bit about his music in this interview, saying modestly, “I didn’t notice this myself, but Koji Wakui says that I have sound that’s a little like Neil Young.”

You can judge for yourself from this obviously bootleg video (see below) of Urasawa performing in concert. In fact, the creator of Monster, 20th Century Boys and the greatest manga of all time, Pluto, is a pretty serious rocker in his spare time, and he released an album, Half Century Man, a couple of years ago. His best-known song is “Bob Lennon,” which was written by his fictional character Kenji Endo in 20th Century Boys.

And now Urasawa is taking his act on the road: The French site Japan Journal reports that Urasawa will be a featured guest at the French anime and manga event Japan Expo, and not only will he speak to fans and sign autographs, he will also perform a concert, backed by J-Rock band Hemenway. Urasawa has performed in clubs in Japan, but this looks like his first gig outside the country.

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Girl Apocalypse shows End Times is no excuse not to be well-dressed

Sex in the City meets The Book of Eli? Not quite, but it’s hard to describe cartoonist Angie Wang‘s Girl Apocalypse without pushing you to actually read it. The 24-page comic stars a group of “hungry and inexplicably fashionable young ladies” roaming a post-apocalyptic wasteland en route to the little hamlet of Bridal Veil, Oregon. Why? You’ll have to read it — either online or in a well-crafted print edition Wang just put on her website.

Hailing from the comics mecca of Portland, Wang balances cartooning with illustration work for such magazines as The New Yorker and Wired. In comics, she’s had stories in anthologies like Dark Horse Presents and Popgun, and has released several well-received minicomics prior to this one.

Check out pages from Girl Apocalypse below.

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Chris Weston gets hammered for Jagermeister commercial

After a storied career drawing comics on both sides of the Atlantic, Chris Weston found one of the coolest gigs for any comic artists: creating storyboards. And after a long working relationship with filmmaker Albert Hughes on The Book of Eli and an aborted Akira adaptation, Weston re-teamed with the director for a different kind of project: an ad for the German liqueur Jagermeister.

Titled “A Seat At The Table,” the live-action spot was storyboarded by Weston based on Hughes’ ideas. The director then used Weston’s drawings to do a strict reproduction, down to a statue of arctic explorers. You can see the completed commercial is below, and check out Weston’s storyboards on his blog.

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Jack Kirby/Joe Sinnott Fantastic Four page fetches record $155,350

A panel from "Fantastic Four" #55, by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott

A page of Silver Surfer original art by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott from 1966′s Fantastic Four #55 sold last week for $155,350 in an auction of vintage comics and comic art that included the very first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sketch. According to Heritage Auctions, that price for the Page 3 half-splash marks the most ever paid for a panel page of comic art.

Held in Dallas, the auction brought in a total of nearly $5.5 million, including $113,525 for a restored copy of Detective Comics #27, featuring the first appearance of Batman, $107,500 for a near-mint copy of The Amazing Spider-Man #1, and $101,575 for Detective Comics #29, the second-ever Batman cover.

Other items included a good copy of Pep Comics #22, featuring the first appearance of Archie ($35,850), and Archie Comics #2 ($31,070).

Titled “When Strikes the Silver Surfer,” Fantastic Four #55 was the fourth appearance of the Herald of Galactus. The page, which you can see in full below, was signed by Stan Lee during a 1983 convention appearance.

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Image’s Eric Stephenson on creators’ rights, Saga and sales figures

In a three-part interview with ICv2.com, Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson talks in his typical straightforward fashion about a number of topics, ranging from the state of the market and the phenomenon of The Walking Dead collections to the early success of Saga and competing with “the DC and Marvel superhero stuff.” The entire Q&A is worthwhile reading, but here are some of the highlights:

On creators’ rights: “People talk to me about what’s going on with the Watchmen stuff. If Image Comics had been around when Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons wanted to do Watchmen, they would have had someplace else they could have gone to do that type of work.  The situation that developed out of what did or didn’t happen with those contracts would have been irrelevant because they would have had a deal that offered them 100 percent creator ownership.”

On competing with long-established properties from Marvel and DC Comics: “If you look at the success stories over the last 20 years (start with Sandman, which is a weird deal between DC and Neil [Gaiman]), and moving up until now, you can’t point to anything new that has been created by Marvel and DC that’s had any lasting impact, but there are all these things, whether it’s Bone, Hellboy, Sin City, The Walking Dead or Y: The Last Man, that are all tremendously successful properties that have done especially well as trade paperback sales both in and outside the comics market. Those things support the fact that there’s an audience for new material. Is there an audience for superhero stuff? Of course, all of the DC and Marvel superhero stuff that goes back 50, 60, 70 years, those people are going to be there, but I think there’s an audience that craves something new. Once you’ve read a story about Spider-Man fighting the Green Goblin for the dozenth time, I think you get hungry for something else. I think there are publishers out there who provide that something else.”

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Comics A.M. | Hero Initiative, Kirby Museum report Avengers donations

The Avengers #1

Organizations | Tom Spurgeon reports that The Hero Initiative has now received close to $3,000 so far due to campaigns asking those people who watch Marvel’s The Avengers to donate money to the organization. The Jack Kirby Museum, meanwhile, reports it has received $1,300 from Avengers-related giving. [The Comics Reporter, The Kirby Museum]

Conventions | Chris Butcher, co-founder and director of the Toronto Comics Art Festival, reports that about 18,000 people attended this year’s TCAF-related events: “TCAF 2012 was the most ambitious festival yet, and my most ambitious personal undertaking. With more off-site and lead-up events than ever before, more partnerships than in previous years, an additional day of programming, and more than 20 featured guests, I worried in the weeks leading up to the show that perhaps we’d bit off a bit more than we could chew. Luckily through the talent and support of some wonderful folks we had varying levels of success on every front, and as always, lessons were learned and we think 2013 will be even stronger.” [Comics212]

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The Middle Ground #103 | How did I get here?

Looking through the previews of Archie’s New Crusaders revival the other day, I had this odd reaction that took me a while to work through. My first impulse was a sense of … dissatisfaction, perhaps, that it looked too “cartoony” and aimed toward kids, which was immediately followed by its own backlash as I remembered, oh, that’s right: that’s what they’re supposed to be.

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The world needs more photos of Jack Kirby dancing

I love old photos of Jack Kirby for many reasons, not the least of which is, in his day, he was one suave-looking, pipe-smoking gentleman. But Sean Kleefeld points us to Greg Theakston’s Facebook gallery, where we’re introduced to another side of the Kirby: the dancing King, bustin’ a move with wife Roz and, at a Comic-Con party, with a belly-dancer. There’s also a nice shot of he and Roz sitting (apparently at the same gathering where they danced). You can see all shots here, and visit Theakston’s gallery for many for great photos of Kirby and others. Now I’m off to start f-yeahkirbydancing.tumblr.com.

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Food or Comics? | Are you my mutton?

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.

Saucer Country #3

Graeme McMillan

If I had $15 this week, I’d pick up the third issues of what may be becoming my two favorite new series: Saga (Image, $2.99) and Saucer Country (DC/Vertigo, $2.99). The former is easily one of the most enjoyable, most packed books out there right now for me, with Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples firing on all cylinders with the two issues to date, whereas the latter has an enjoyably retro feel that reminds me of the earliest days of the Vertigo imprint in ways that I can’t quite put my finger on but love nonetheless.

If I had $30, I’d grab the new edition of Leviathan (Rebellion, $16.99), a collection of a 2000AD horror story by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli that the creators apparently described as “Agatha Christie meets Silent Hill” about a Titanic-esque cruise ship that disappears in the middle of the ocean, and ends up somewhere else … with no land in sight for more than two decades. Really looking forward to reading this one.

Should I suddenly find enough money down the back of my couch to splurge this week, then I’d hope to find the $29.99 I’d need for the Deadenders trade paperback (DC/Vertigo). I entirely missed the Ed Brubaker/Warren Pleece mod romance comic the first time around, so this collection of the entire series will be a welcome chance to make up for past mistakes.

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My own private Eisners

Being a judge in the Eisner Awards meant making hard choices. It’s like being an admissions officer at Harvard: You could make a top-notch set of picks, throw them away, and still have a strong field for the second set. With six judges each having a different voice, sometimes a book that one or two of us think is the greatest thing since sliced bread doesn’t make the final cut.

Here’s my short list of comics that, if it were up to me, would have gotten Eisner nominations.

Best Limited Series

One of my favorite series of 2011 was Spontaneous, by Brett Weldele and Joe Harris. It’s a great crypto-mystery about spontaneous human combustion, with a nerdy know-it-all played off against an aggressive reporter. The story has its flaws, but I couldn’t put it down.

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)

Nina in That Makes Me Mad: We had an unusually strong field of children’s books, even after we split the category into two age groups, but this book was my first choice for a nomination. The writing is sharp and perceptive, and Hilary Knight’s illustrations are amazing. Even the page layouts are awesome. This is a book that speaks directly to children, in a voice they can understand, yet does it with an elegance that adults can appreciate as well.

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Hannah Friederichs’ Sendak Avengers

"Avengers on Parade," by Hannah Friederichs

Combining joy over The Avengers movie with sadness about the death of children’s book illustrator Maurice Sendak, Hannah Friederichs has created a wonderful tribute to both. You can see the entire image — including what Hawkeye is so concerned about — below.

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Kickstart my art | Two days left to get graphic with Reading With Pictures

Chris Schweizer has a nice post explaining the different premiums he is offering as part of the Graphic Textbook Kickstarter, which reminded me that this Kickstarter is ending in two days. The fund-raising goal is $65,000, which seemed incredibly ambitious to me, but as of this writing it has less than $2,000 to go to reach its goal. As Michael May explained a few weeks ago, the graphic textbook is the work of the nonprofit Reading With Pictures, which promotes the use of comics in classrooms and has already produced one very nice anthology; this book, should it succeed, could lead to a whole line of graphic textbooks. This would have the double benefit of providing children with another way to learn (since different kids have different ways of taking in information, adding the graphic medium will give some students a boost) and providing a lot of creators with paying work, which is always a good thing.

What sets the Graphic Textbook apart from most other educational projects is the quality of the creators, many of whom are already well known in the world of children’s or adult comics: Roger Langridge (Snarked, Popeye), Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey (Action Philosophers), Raina Telgemeier (Smile) and a host of others. With creators like that on board, the pledge premiums are pretty good.

Anyway, Schweizer’s post grabbed me because I’m a fan of his Crogan Adventures, a series of graphic novels about members of the same family set in different historical eras, and the short story he is doing for The Graphic Textbook is a Crogan story set during the Revolutionary War. His premiums include original art, a video tutoring session, and sketches of the donor in 18th-century garb, but if that doesn’t appeal to you, there are still some other nice premiums left, including Langridge sketches, tickets to the Charles Schulz Museum, a script or portfolio review by former DC/Vertigo editor Brandon Montclare, or a personalized action figure.

The Five Fists of Science inspires amazing, working Tesla Gun

Rob Flickenger with his Tesla Gun

Inspired by The Five Fists of Science, the 2006 steampunk graphic novel by Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders, author Rob Flickenger did what any aspiring mad scientist would do: He constructed his own working Tesla Gun, powered by an 18-volt drill battery.

“You pull the trigger, and lightning comes out the front,” Flickenger writes on his blog, where  he breaks down the process, complete with photos. “It is functionally inferior to that of Tesla’s design in the Five Fists in a few important respects. Notably, it is a bit longer and heavier than Tesla’s own. It also cannot (yet) create an ion wind strong enough to cushion the user when leaping from a four story building. On the other hand, my design is an improvement in two important respects: 1) It is battery powered, and 2) It actually exists.”

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