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Conversing on Comics with Dan McDaid

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You can do things in comics you can’t do in any other medium, and U.K. cartoonist Dan McDaid has taken advantage of that in his work on Time Lords, superheroes, gods, monsters and apes — and he’s done it all without sacrificing his style. In fact, it’s only invigorated him further.

McDaid is currently illustrating BOOM! Studios’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, taking a novel look at that world while retaining the auteur vibe that made the original movie work. Combining a diverse array of influences, Jack Kirby to John Romita Jr. and Frank Miller to Mike Zeck — even drawing in names like Nic Roeg and Sam Peckinpah — McDaid seems to showcase a different facet of his abilities in each project he tackles.

I became aware of McDaid during his run on Jersey Gods at Image Comics, but it’s Catalyst Comix that made me reconsider my assessment of his work. Since then, with Vandroid and issues of Mind the Gap and Sex, he’s risen in my mind to become a dynamic illustrator whose talent seems to be building to some unknown future project that will make him a marquee name in comics. Will it be Dawn of the Planet of Apes? Will it be the creator-owned book he’s working on? Or perhaps something else?

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Nate Simpson announces he’s finished ‘Nonplayer’ #2

nonplayerthumbMore than three and a half years after the release of Nonplayer #1, creator Nate Simpson has announced he’s finally completed the second issue of the acclaimed sci-fi/fantasy comic.

“If you’re a member of the comics press and I promised you any kind of exclusive upon the occasion of Nonplayer 2’s release, could you DM me?” the artist wrote on Twitter. “Which is a roundabout way of saying Nonplayer 2 is DONE. Woohoo! I’m going to sleep in till 6am for a WHOLE WEEK in celebration!”

Debuting in April 2011 from Image Comics, Nonplayer introduced Dana Stevens, a young woman who retreats from her dull life into the digital-fantasy realm of Jarvath, where she’s a fearless warrior. Soon, however, her video-game adventures begin to intersect with the real world.

That first issue drew widespread attention, earning Simpson, a video-game designer, the Russ Manning award for most promising newcomer. Warner Bros. was also quick to option the film rights.

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Comics A.M. | WonderCon announces first wave of 2015 guests

WonderCon Anaheim

WonderCon Anaheim

Conventions | WonderCon Anaheim has announced the first round of guests for its April 3-5 show: Neal Adams, Becky Cloonan, Aaron Kuder, Kevin Maguire and Dustin Nguyen. [Toucan Blog]

Publishing | Oni Press is seeking a new director of publicity, following the departure last month of John Schork. [Oni Press]

Publishing | Magnetic Press is looking for a marketing assistant. [Magnetic Press]

Retailers | The Laughing Ogre chain has announced its Lansdowne, Virginia, location (Phoenix Comics & Toys) has lost its lease and will close Dec. 18. That store is managed by chain co-owner Gary Dills, the former ComicsPRO treasurer named as the subject of an investigation into a possible misuse of organization funds. The chain has two other locations, in Fairfax, Virginia, and Columbus, Ohio. [Laughing Ogre, via Bleeding Cool]

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Grumpy Old Fan | Can ‘The Flash’ be a pacesetter?

The times, they are a changin'

The times, they are a changin’

A little over a year ago, I asked, “what do we want out of a [superhero] comic-based TV series?”

This season, DC Comics fans have plenty of material to fuel that debate. I still haven’t seen any of Gotham or Constantine, but I’ve really enjoyed the combination of The Flash and Arrow. With both shows taking a break for the holidays, today I want to see what satisfies and what doesn’t.

SPOILERS FOLLOW for Arrow and The Flash, including some for the most recent episodes.

* * *

It took me a while to warm up to Arrow. After taking most of last season to catch up — and, as it happens, missing the Barry Allen episodes — I seem to have gotten on board just at the right time. Because I am not a fan of superhero shows that de-emphasize the “superhero” part, it was harder for me to accept that Oliver Queen would skulk around the urban jungle in a hood and eyeblack. That sort of intermediate realism (which now reminds me of the short-lived TV show based on Mike Grell’s Jon Sable comics) somehow requires more suspension of disbelief than a full-on costume and codename does.

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Penguin Judge Dredd is the law … the cute and cuddly law

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I know very little about Judge Dredd lore, but I’d like to imagine Antarctic City isn’t kept safe by Polar Judges but rather adorable little penguins, armed and outfitted with the signature helmet, badge and epaulettes. You know, like this Judge Dredd Cosplay Penguin PVC statuette from Blind Mouse Toys.

Designed by Daniel Balmforth and Steve Scholz, and sculpted and painted by Joe Amaro, the 11.5-centimeter (about 4.5 inches) statuette comes with “comic-accurate costume,” removable Lawgiver and non-removable helmet. And it can be yours fr $40.

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Zak Sally talks ‘Recidivist IV': ‘This is where I stand’

IMG_1606-768x1024Zak Sally’s Recidivist IV was one of the most difficult comics I’ve ever read. I don’t mean that in an aesthetic or emotional or abstract sense. I mean it was physically difficult to read, as I frequently had to hold the comic at odd angles, or directly up against sunlight to be able to read certain sentences.

That’s entirely intentional. Sally uses bright metallic inks, intricate, overlapping patterns and more to make the type difficult to discern, if not as downright enigmatic as the accompanying images. Containing short stories (although they feel more like essays or simple declarations at times) about characters at life-altering crossroads, and accompanied with a CD of drone music, Recidivist IV is generally what you thinks of when you hear the phrase “a challenging work.” As he noted on his blog, it certainly isn’t a “passive, easy reading experience.”

It might also be one of the best comics of 2014, smart and elegant and breathtaking, a comic that forces you to engage with it but rewards you with its tightrope act as the reading experience and the content cohere into a breathtaking whole.

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ComiXology returns with ’12 Days of Free Comics’

the wake1ComiXology is back this year with its own take on an Advent calendar, the third annual “12 Days of Free Comics.”

Each day through Dec. 22, the company will offer a digital comic for free, beginning today with The Wake #1 by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy (it may be a holiday tradition for Snyder as well, as last year’s event kicked off with Batman #13).

What’s more, each comic can be gifted to friends, family members or co-workers. However, each day’s selection is available for download only until 11 p.m. ET (a slight change from last year, when you had 24 hours).

“It’s been an outstanding year for us at comiXology, and we want every comic fan to help us celebrate with our third annual 12 Days of Free Comics,” CEO David Steinberger said in a statement. “It’s you, the comics fan, that push us every day to create an even brighter future for comics, graphic novels and manga worldwide. These comics are for you!”

Sign up for alerts, or keep eye on the comiXology Tumblr or blog for each day’s offering.

With tattoos of 203 ‘Simpsons’ characters, man aims for record

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A 52-year-old prison guard from Australia is counting on the 203 Simpsons characters tattooed on his back to earn him a place in Guinness World Records.

According to the Daily Mail, Michael Baxter has spent 130 hours and more than $9,900 in the past years to have Springfield’s residents, and even some of its landmarks, inked on his body. There’s the power plant on his right shoulder, Moe’s Tavern on his left, and anchorman Kent Brockman venturing south of his waistband.

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Wrestlers converge for a secret war in ‘WWE Superstars’

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DC Comics and Marvel are gearing up for all-out wars next summer involving various versions of their most popular heroes and villains, but the WWE is beating them to the punch.

In the current arc of Papercutz’s WWE Superstars, wrestler-turned-writer Mick Foley is heading up a clash of the champions with modern-day superstars going up against their predecessors in the primes. Hulk Hogan versus John Cena, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin versus Daniel Bryan, the Big Show versus Vader, and the Legion of Doom versus, well …  everyone.

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‘Superman Unchained,’ now bound

superman unchainedReaders and, especially, retailers may have plenty of reasons to be annoyed by Superman Unchained, the now-complete series available this week in a fancy-schmancy 350-page, slightly oversized hardcover “Deluxe Edition.”

DC Comics announced the awkwardly titled series — please note, there are no literal or metaphorical chains either going on or coming off in the story — as an ongoing, promoted with seemingly countless variant covers (more on these later). In theory, it sounded like a can’t-miss comic, featuring as it did the work of Scott Snyder, one of (if not the) most popular writers in the direct market and Jim Lee, one of (if not the) most popular artists in the direct market, working on DC’s flagship (and second-most popular) character.

In reality, the book turned out to just an nine-issue miniseries, rather important information a retailer would have taken into consideration when ordering. Whether or not it was always intended to be a miniseries, I don’t know; it reads as a complete story with a beginning, middle and end, and it fits into the New 52 continuity, but loosely enough that one need not have any idea what’s going on in any other book to follow it easily (Snyder really pulled off some great line-straddling here, as this reads equally well as part of the New 52 and as a standalone book for a new or lapsed Superman fan). The plan might have originally been for it to be ongoing, until the reality of a Lee drawing a monthly series set in.

Even at just nine issues, Superman Unchained was plagued with delays that made reading it serially something of a chump’s game. It took 15 months to publish those nine issues. That averages out to a bimonthly-ish schedule, but the delays were random and erratic: Issues 4 and 5 shipped in consecutive months, for example, and then there was a two-month delay before Issue 6, and a three-month delay before Issue 7. If there’s a more perfect argument for waiting for the trade than Superman Unchained, I’ve yet to hear it (you even get all 58 covers in this collection, some process stuff and no ads, and at $29.99 it’s cheaper than the buying all nine single issues at $3.99).

So, yes, if you’re in the business of trying to sell comics to people, you may have some ill will toward this book. And if you tried reading it “monthly,” you may also not feel great about it. I can’t defend DC’s production or marketing of the book, but I would argue in favor of forgiving Superman Unchained. Because the thing is, it’s actually a pretty great Superman story.
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Eric Orchard on ‘Maddy Kettle,’ depression and mental illness

Maddy KettleOn one level, Eric Orchard’s Maddy Kettle: The Adventure of the Thimblewitch is a classic adventure tale about a girl who has to go find the witch who turned her parents into kangaroo rats, in order to undo the spell. The art is reminiscent of children’s fantasy tales, and Maddy meets a fanciful assortment of friends and foes along the way. However, after reading Orchard’s recent tweets about his experiences with mental illness, I realized there are many layers to this story.

I asked Orchard if he would discuss the way his experiences with mental disorders — his mother’s schizophrenia and his own depression and anxiety — have influenced his storytelling.

Brigid Alverson: How has mental illness affected your life?

Eric Orchard: My mother always suffered terribly from schizophrenia, but when my father died, when I was 2, she fell apart. Most of my childhood was my mother struggling to keep herself together. In retrospect it seems like a heroic feat; even though I suffered somewhat, she overcame things that I find astounding. She had reserves of strength and compassion that saw us through. She was battling fears and terrifying visions so that I could have some kind of normal life. Really, there was only so much she could do. What I recall most was the antipsychotics causing her to sleep most of the day. With no siblings or father, I was alone a lot. These were times I started writing and drawing. I had hours to tell elaborate stories and build worlds. I was taught to read very young by an aunt, and that also helped.

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Comics A.M. | Putting ‘Star Wars’ #1 sales in historical context

Star Wars #1

Star Wars #1

Publishing | John Jackson Miller reflects on the news that the first issue of Marvel’s Star Wars will sell 1 million copies, and notes the last comic to do so was a Pokemon title in 1999. The last direct market comic to reach that mark was Batman #500 in 1993. Miller also delves deeper into history, pointing out that Marvel’s original Star Wars #1, released in 1977, also sold more than 1 million copies, making it the first comic to reach that height since Dell’s Uncle Scrooge in 1960. [Comichron]

Passings | Maurice Tanti Burlo, editorial cartoonist for the Times of Malta, has died at the age of 78. Burlo, who used the pen name Nalizpelra, was working for Telemalta in 1977 when Prime Minister Dom Mintoff suspended a number of Telemalta staff, including Burlo, for supporting doctors, nurses, and bankers who went on strike. Burlo started cartooning to “get back at Mintoff,” and just kept on doing it; he published three books of his work and won the BPC Award in 1998 an 2002. [Times of Malta]

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Mike Perkins homages ‘Giant-Size X-Men’ #1 for ‘Star Wars’ #1 Variant

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Tampa, Florida retailer Heroes Haven is very excited for the release of Marvel’s upcoming Star Wars #1 — so much so that it actually put together a trailer for a special store-exclusive variant cover for its Facebook page. Heroes Haven certainly has reason for excitement — its store-exclusive variant by Mike Perkins is a cool homage to one of Marvel’s most well-known comics of all time: Giant-Size X-Men #1.

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This ‘Wonder Woman’ theme cover will make a hawk a dove

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I’m not sure why, four years after its release, this cover of the Wonder Woman TV theme song is making the rounds, but I’m incredibly happy it is. Performed by the Ontario band The Bombsters, it’s delightfully earnest, and the perfect way to end a cold and dreary day.

And, yes, the drummer is wearing a Batman-like mask, but it’s not only for this video. That’s Mr. Somebody, who … apparently wears a mask during performances. I dunno. Fun little drum solo, though.

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There’s more to this Silver Surfer tribute than meets the eye

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As difficult as it may be to believe, this tribute to Ron Lim’s cover for Silver Surfer #20 isn’t an illustration. It’s a photograph of a model wearing body paint, applied by makeup artist Cris Alex and shot using strong light to make it appear flat. It’s only upon closer inspection, when you can make out details like eyelashes, whiskers and nails that it becomes clear the Herald of Galactus is an actual person.

Alex, who’s resume includes movies, television shows and music videos, also provides behind-the-scenes photos, where the shadows and contours are apparent, and the glaring model is a little alarming.

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