Current Transmissions

The Middle Ground #127 | A galaxy far, far away

You know that it’s possibly time to abandon all hope when one of the first thoughts you have when reading the news that Lucasfilm has been purchased by Disney is “But what will that mean for Brian Wood’s new Star Wars series from Dark Horse?”

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Art Barrage | Mike Huddleston, Paul Pope, James Harren and more

I see art blog collective Brand New Nostalgia have added a new member, James Harren. Here’s an example of his style from his own blog, a Dark Knight Returns Batman, from May. Great color palette. See the full-sized imaged, plus new work by Paul Pope, Mike Huddleston and others, below.

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Kerry Callen likes a (Kirby-tech) challenge

From the original page by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott from "Fantastic Four" #64

After his recent gif animation of the classic cover to Fantastic Four #51, Robot 6 favorite Kerry Callen was challenged by the Jack Kirby Museum‘s Richard Bensam to try his hand at animating some of The King’s signature tech. See the eye-popping results below.

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Food or Comics? | Lobster or Liberty Annual

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.

CBLDF Liberty Annual 2012

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d line up to get the this year’s CBLDF Liberty Annual #5 (Image, $4.99). I’m an anthology junkie, and this hits that perfectly while also benefiting a good cause. The creator list is amazing – even without knowing who’s working with whom. After that, I’d get Happy #2 (Image, $2.99). This book’s first issue hit me harder than I expected; I was buying it for Grant Morrison to wow me with his writing, but it was Darick Robertson’s artwork that hit me square between the eyes. I’ve read all the issues of Transmetropolitan and most of The Boys, but his art here has graduated up a level and I’m almost salivating at thinking of this second issue. Third this week would be Wolverine and the X-Men #19 (Marvel, $3.99), quietly usurping Uncanny X-Force as my favorite Marvel book on the stands. Last issue’s Doop-centric theme was great for me, but I’m excited to see star pupil Nick Bradshaw back on pencils for this issue.

If I had $30, I’d double back and get Higher Earth, Vol. 1 (Boom!, $14.99) Canceled or not, this series looks interesting despite my bailing after Issue 1. It’s a complicated concept (from what I gleaned from the first issue), but I’m looking to let Humphries school me on this.

If I could splurge, I’d snatch up EC: Wally Wood – Came the Dawn and Other Stories (Fantagraphics, $28.99). I’ve been aware of Wally Wood for a almost two decades now, but I tend to go through periods of simply floating around before I consume and learn more about him in short but voracious periods. Last time it was in the bloom of Fear Agent, and seeing this in Previews a few months back got me jonesing to do it again.

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Dustin Nguyen and Derek Fridolfs bring Li’l Gotham to DC Digital

DC Comics is expanding its digital-first initiative Wednesday with Li’l Gotham, a monthly serial featuring Dustin Nguyen’s popular chibi-esque renditions of Batman’s friends and foes. Nguyen’s frequent collaborate Derek Fridolfs will co-write.

The story, called “The Calendar of Small Events,” is holiday-themed, with the first installment tied to Halloween. Subsequent chapters will center around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

“This has been a passion project of mine for some time now, and for anyone that’s followed my work, I’m sure it’s more of an ‘its about time!’” Nguyen told DC’s The Source. “The look and style is a slight departure from my usual (think the exact opposite of serious), but the idea has always been the same — to take our favorite existing Gotham characters, place them in fun scenarios without having to be tied to just one continuity or look and feel. It’s basically a Batman book for fans, by two huge fans.”

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Amazon resumes sales of Saga trade paperback

Amazon.com has resumed selling the first volume of Saga, the acclaimed sci-fi/fantasy epic by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, but has yet to indicate why the trade paperback was placed “under review” last week. While one report indicated there may have been problems with copies being warped by heat, neither Vaughan nor publisher Image Comics were given an explanation by the online retail giant.

“I’ve always loved Amazon, but maybe this incident should serve as a reminder that the best place to buy graphic novels is still your friendly neighborhood local comics store,” Vaughan said in a statement. “Saga exists only because retailers gave it so much support, and they were kind enough to order a metric ass-load of our trades, so they should still have copies on their shelves when you swing by on Wednesday. But if they’ve already sold out, Image still has a few extras stashed down in Kirkman’s basement, and good retailers can order you up a fresh one immediately. And if you’re still on the fence about picking up our filthy sci-fi/fantasy epic, you can always read our double-sized first issue in its entirety for FREE right here. Then we return monthly with Chapter Seven in two short weeks!”

Debuting in March, Saga follows two soldiers from opposite sides of an intergalactic war who fall in love and risk everything for their newborn daughter, in the process becoming fugitives on the run from their own governments.

Variations on a theme: ‘A Letter Lasts Longer’

George Jurard's interpretation of A Letter Lasts Longer

Earlier this month, Dean Haspiel spent three weeks as a “master artist” mentoring a group of young comics creators at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. One of their exercises was to draw a short comic based on a script from Haspiel that contained no visual cues, and Haspiel has now posted the results, “A Letter Lasts Longer,” at Trip City.

It’s fascinating to click through eight comics and see the differences — and the similarities — in the ways the creators interpret the script. It’s just a scrap of reminiscence about receiving a letter from a man as a small child, and the reflection that letters last longer than computer media. Most of the cartoonists took this to be the story of a father writing to a child, but George Jurard imagined it as a love letter in a remarkably rich and detail-filled comic. And while most of the artists used fairly conventional paneling, Jp Pollard and Christa Cassano spread it out across the page in interesting ways. Haspiel himself also drew a version of the comic, and the whole group makes an interesting exercise in compare-and-contrast.

Quote of the Day | ‘Comics have a problem, and that is continuity’

Legion of Super-Heroes, by Neal Adams

“Comics have a problem, and that is continuity — the obsession with placing the characters in an existing world, where every event is marked in canon. You’re supposed to believe that these weepy star boys of now are the same gung ho super teens fighting space monsters in the sixties, and they’ve only aged perhaps five years. It eventually strains credulity, and can shackle a writer who wants to try a something new. Very few narrative forms have to deal with this principle, and a fan base that gets mad when it’s violated, except for maybe soap operas (which is what comics are).  So there are these periodic memory wipes and start-overs. But to me, it never felt right with the Legion. There are just too many of these kids, none of them is iconic, the whole pleasure is the continuity– the evolution of comic styles and sensibility encoded in their being.”

– author, humorist and Legion of Super-Heroes fan John Hodgman, on why the DC Comics property has been rebooted so many times over the past 55 years

Monkeybrain Comics donating November profits to Hero Initiative

Writer and publisher Chris Roberson, who’s emerged over the past six months as a vocal advocate for creators’ rights, announced this morning that his Monkeybrain Comics will donate all of its income from November to The Hero Initiative, the industry organization dedicated to helping creators in need.

While creators releasing comics through Monkeybrain’s recently launched digital-comics initiative will still receive their portion of profits, the publisher’s cut will go to the charity.

“There are far too many stories of well-respected, talented writers and artists who created successful and beloved comics in previous decades, and who now are living in reduced means — unable to afford health care, unable to find paying work, some even homeless,” Roberson, who co-founded Monkeybrain in 2001 with his wife Allison Baker, wrote in an open letter. “At the same time, characters created and co-created by many of these same creators have gone on to appear in major motion pictures, on television, and in toy aisles. The American comic book industry was built on selling morality tales to young readers, stories of men and women who fought for justice and stood up for what was right. And the writers, artists, and others who created those stories deserve better than they have received. Thankfully, they have the Hero Initiative in their corner.”

Monkeybrain’s digital lineup includes Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, Edison Rex by Roberson and Dennis Culver, Thoughts on a Winter Morning by Kurt Busiek and Steve Lieber, and Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer L. Meyer. The comics can be purchased on the publisher’s website, or on comiXology.

Read Roberson’s full letter below:

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Comics A.M. | Zapiro lawsuit dropped; Jose Luis Ferrer passes away

Legal

Legal | South African President Jacob Zuma has formally withdrawn his defamation lawsuit against cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (who goes by the pen name Zapiro) and will pay a portion of his court costs as well. Zuma dropped part of the case last week, a claim of 4 million rand for “impairment of dignity.” A spokesman for Zuma said the president had more important things on his mind and didn’t want to set a precedent that “may have the effect of limiting the public exercise of free speech.” [The Citizen]

Passings | The Catalan artist Jose Luis Ferrer, who signed himself simply “Ferrer,” died Monday of a brain tumor. Ferrer’s work appeared in 2000AD, Starlord and other British comics, but he was an international artist with work published in Germany, France, Sweden and the United States as well. [Down the Tubes]

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2000AD super-fan plants coded messages in letters pages

Tharg, as drawn by Henry Flint

Reed Beebe is a huge fan of the British sci-fi comic 2000AD. How big a fan? Here, let him explain it:

To celebrate 35 years of 2000 A.D., I furtively encoded Tharg the Mighty’s name in fan letters published in 35 comics, over a ten month period. In my fan letters, I used an acrostic (the first letter of each sentence in the body of my fan letter together spell out “THARG”). For example – “The Shadow is back? Hallelujah! And Garth Ennis is the writer? Right on! Get this book in my hands ASAP!” These “Tharg Code” fan letters can be found in the letter columns of 35 comics from six publishers.

Tharg the Mighty is, of course, the real editor of 2000AD, a space alien who has human minions such as editor Matt Smith carry out his wishes.

Beebe told me in an e-mail that he has been writing letters to the editor of his favorite comics for about two years now, and he has been playing around with adding little puzzles and poems to them, but the 35th anniversary of 2000AD inspired him to do a longer, more ambitious project.

His letters can be found in comics as diverse as B.P.R.D., Vampirella, Fantastic Four, Savage Dragon and, closer to home, Judge Dredd Megazine; there’s a complete list of issues with coded messages at the link above.

Comic-Con to stay in San Diego through 2016

U-T San Diego reports Comic-Con International organizers and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders have announced a one-year extension to their contract, ensuring the convention will remain in the city through 2016.

Why not forever? The limited capacity of the San Diego Convention Center has been a issue as Comic-Con gets bigger every year. By moving some events out of the center and into nearby plazas and other facilities, organizers were able to loosen things up a bit and offer an additional 5,000 badges this year.

Sanders has been advocating for a $520 million expansion of the building, but a tax on hotel rooms that would fund it is tied up in court, and the project also must be approved by the California Coastal Commission. There are other obstacles as well, but the bald fact is, as CCI spokesman David Glanzer said, “If by next year and the following year, we have such an influx of people that the added space we use doesn’t work and there’s no expansion, then it could be an issue.”

But with Comic-Con bringing $68 million into the city every July, Sanders and his administration have pretty good incentive to make it happen — and nearby Los Angeles and Anaheim have equally good incentives to try to lure Comic-Con away.

Kickstart My Art | Noir City #1

With just nine days to go, collaborators Cody Walker (Keeping the World Strange: A Planetary Guide), RG Valerius and Allen Byrns are in the home stretch of their Kickstarter campaign for Noir City #1, the debut of “an intertwining tale” involving mysterious characters, culminating in “resolution of the great mystery of who murdered The Miracle, the hero of a forgotten age.”

While co-writers Walker and Valerius are wanting to keep details of the story rather … mysterious– “The issue introduces readers, in true noir fashion, to a lost soul who finds himself thrust on the fringe of a mystery that he knows nothing about and no one around him can even recall that it exists” — you can get a sense of the central characters on the comic’s website and on the Kickstarter page, which also provides a look at Byrns’ rather Templesmith-esque art. The campaign is $3,135 toward its $4,500 goal, which will go toward the production and printing of the 28-page full-color first issue.

Pledge rewards range from access to exclusive digital content and a “Vote Noir” poster to participation in a Skype RPG game and original sketches. The campaign ends Nov. 7.

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Quote of the Day | ‘I hear crying a lot … And I mean that in a good way’

“As simple as it sounds, it’s the simple fact that we’re helping people and having immediate positive impact in their lives. I hear crying a lot. I really do. And I mean that in a good way. I think it’s just the breaking of a dam sometimes, and an emotional release. I can’t tell you how often I’ll be speaking to someone on the phone after the disbursement committee has decided what to do, and I’ll tell Artist X, ‘Yeah, no problem. Gimme the address and an account number, and we can pay off that hospital bill. Give me your landlord’s name and number, we’ll take care of the back rent, and get you paid off for next month as well. And we’re sending a check to you so you can get some groceries.’ People just break down and start crying. I think it’s the stress of all these things ending, the cracking of that ice … it’s an emotional moment. The mind, the body, something … it doesn’t know what to do. So it cries. It’s odd, but I’ve come to not look at a full-grown adult crying as anything bad. In fact, it’s good. For so many people, it’s the end of a long and painful road.”

Jim McLauchlin, president and co-founder of The Hero Initiative, explaining why he loves his job.
Since its founding in 2000, the organization has given more than $500,000 to comics creators in need.

A quick trip through the spring/fall Fantagraphics catalog

Fantagraphics has made a number of notable publishing announcements over the past few weeks, but the new release of its spring/fall catalog reveals even more intriguing books coming down the pike next year. I thought I’d take it upon myself to run through what I feel are some of the more interesting titles scheduled for 2013, avoiding some of the more expected titles, like the new Donald Duck or Steve Ditko collections, or paperback editions of previously released material. If all goes well, I hope to do this sort of thing again with other small press publishers as we get closer to the end of the year.

Katherine Whaley

The Amazing, Enlightening and Absolutely True Adventures of Katherine Whaley by Kim Deitch. Deitch’s latest graphic novel (his first original one, his previous works having been serialized in anthologies and other series) concerns a young actress in early 20th century America who gets a plum role in a movie serial, only to discover all is not what it seems. Could alleged recordings of Christ made centuries before the invention of recorded sound be somehow involved? Could be! Printed in landscape format to give that “widescreen” feel. April, $29.99.

Bread and Wine by Samuel R. Delaney and Mia Wolff. Apparently this was published back in 1999, although this is the first time I’ve ever heard of it. Famed science-fiction author Delaney chronicles his romance with a young homeless man, with Wolff providing art. April, $14.99

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