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As a kid, The Phantom was one of my favorite comic strips. So last year, I was enthused when I learned that writer Jeff Parker was collaborating with artist Marc Laming on a miniseries called Kings Watch, starring Flash Gordon, The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician.
Ahead of the July release of the trade paperback collection, I spoke with Laming about the miniseries, and to briefly discuss how the project has opened the door for future work for him. My thanks to Laming for his time and to series editor Nate Cosby for facilitating the interview.
Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.
Joining us today is Ron Randall, creator of Trekker and artist on such comics as Warlord, Arak, Son of Thunder, Doom Patrol, Justice League International, and many, many more.
Now let’s get to it …
Retailing | The direct market is looking good, with first-quarter sales up 29 percent over last year, according to figures released at the Diamond Retailer Summit. Heidi MacDonald reports, “There was no single element which seemed to be behind to surge, although sales of The Walking Dead comics and graphic novels were frequently mentioned. The general interest in “nerd culture” seems to be driving much of the merchandise and publishing growth, with more offerings in the housewares category a standout: Diamond is now offering their own line of such things as bottle openers and ice cube trays, such as a Walking Dead themed ice cube tray in the shape of body parts.” [Publishers Weekly]
Conventions | CBR and Robot 6 are covering C2E2 in depth, but for a quick overview, check out Christopher Borrelli’s recap and photo gallery. [Chicago Tribune]
As the comics community continues to process the news of Joe Kubert’s death, everything else feels very secondary. One way of honoring the legendary artist and teacher is by appreciating his art, and the art of his peers. Steve Niles discovered this series of art jams featuring a Kubert Hawkman alongside Wendy Pini’s Elfquest characters, Neal Adams’ Conan, Dave Cockrum’s Human Torch, and others. The rest of the jams include characters drawn by C.C. Beck, John Romita, John Byrne, George Perez, Gray Morrow, Dave Sim, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Curt Swan, Jim Aparo, Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Al Williamson, Chester Gould, and the list goes on and on.
I don’t know the history behind these pieces, but it occurs to me that many of these comics legends are still with us. In addition to saying our good-byes to Mr. Kubert and offering appreciations of his work, another great way to honor his legacy might be to reach out and express similar appreciation to living creators whose work we love.
On the same day that Fantagraphics announced The Complete Zap Comix, the publisher revealed it will bring yet another treasure trove of groundbreaking comics back to the stands. At its panel at Comic-Con International and in an interview with The Comics Reporter’s Tom Spurgeon, Fantagraphics announced it had acquired the rights to publish the EC Comics library from the representatives of its late publisher, William M. Gaines.
Known for pushing comics’ boundaries of formal innovation and craft as well as raw content before anti-comics hysteria and the creation of the Comics Code helped stifle the publisher in the mid-’50s, EC has generally been reprinted in formats that center on its (in)famous horror, crime, science fiction, and war anthology series, such as Tales from the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, The Haunt of Fear, Crime SuspenStories, Weird Science, Weird Fantasy, Two-Fisted Tales, and Frontline Combat. What sets the Fantagraphics reprint project apart is that individual creators’ work will be culled from the series in which it appeared and presented in a series of black-and-white solo spotlight volumes. The first four books announced will collect war stories written by Harvey Kurtzman (Corpse on the Imjin and Other Stories, featuring art by Kurtzman, Gene Colan, Russ Heath, and Joe Kubert), suspense stories by Wally Wood (Came the Dawn and Other Stories), horror stories by written by Al Feldstein and illustrated by Jack Davis, and science fiction stories by Al Williamson.
Click on over to The Comics Reporter for more details, including an interview with editor and co-publisher Gary Groth.
It’s been awhile since I posted about Comic Twart, the comic art blog collective that includes Chris Samnee, Mike Hawthorne, Andy Kuhn, Mitch Breitweiser, Tom Fowler, Mitch Gerads and many others. They’ve been regularly posting art based on various themes, so let’s see what they’ve been up to recently …
Publishing | Direct-market comics sales rebounded in May, increasing 15 percent from the same month last year. Sales of graphic novels, however, fell 13 percent. Diamond’s list of Top 300 periodicals was led by Avengers #1 with an estimated 163,867 copies — 50,000 more than second-place Siege #4 (the final issue of the Marvel miniseries). The lackluster graphic-novel chart was topped by the ninth volume of Ex Machina, with fewer than 5,000 copies. Once again The Walking Dead was a standout, with 12 volumes charting — including a reprint of the six-year-old Days Gone Bye collection, which came in at No. 19 with about 2,300 copies. [ICv2.com]
Internet | Kimberly Saunders looks at how scanlation aggregators hide titles on their websites, removing yaoi titles from the prying eyes of Google — Google’s AdSense application doesn’t permit sites with sexually explicit content — and seemingly satisfying take-down notices from publishers: “MangaFox is not alone in trying the shell game, either. AnimeA have game on as well. Visit their site, click on a manga title they have supposedly removed, (all Viz so far, just like MangaFox) and up comes a message that it is licensed and you have to buy it. But if you have a page bookmarked, or come via a search engine, and click on a listed numbered chapter of (name of removed manga), guess what? Yes, it is there, just hidden and inaccessible from the main page in an attempt to appear compliant …” [The Kimi-chan Experience, via Deb Aoki]
Passings | Kaylee Byram reports that Richard “Rik” Levins, an artist best known for his work in the early 1990s with Mark Gruenwald on Marvel’s Captain America, passed away on June 12 at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. He was 59. Levins also penciled covers and interiors for Acclaim’s X-O Manowar and The H.A.R.D. Corps, AC Comics’ Dragonfly and FemForce, and Marvel’s The Avengers. In more recent years he worked as a game developer and modeler. [ComicMix, via Journalista]
Passings | The editors of Monthly Shonen Magazine announced that Tadashi Kawashima, writer of Alive: The Final Evolution, passed away on June 15 from liver cancer. He was 42. The science fiction/supernatural series, which concluded in January in Japan, is licensed in North America by Del Rey Manga. [Anime News Network]
Legal | In response to a complaint filed by Marvel, federal police in Mexico City have seized from vendors more than 100 illegally produced piñatas, many of which featured Spider-Man — aka Hombre Araña — Captain America and the Incredible Hulk. [The New York Times]
The internet is rightfully rich with tributes to Al Williamson in recent days. When news of his passing got around, I decided to contact a variety of folks to find out their favorite Al Williamson work. Some were willing to single out certain works, others preferred to speak to his work as a whole. I loved the variety I was able to elicit from respondents, be it with replies to my request or directing me to previous statements they had made about Williamson since his passing. My thanks to the many folks who replied, as well as Dark Horse’s Jim Gibbons for gathering a couple of these perspectives for me (speaking of Dark Horse, be sure to read Dave Land’s Al Williamson recollection at the publisher’s new blog). In addition to these Williamson recollection/recommendations, it would be spectacular if you share your own favorite Williamson works in the comments section. Finally, please note that the Williamson family has suggested donations (in lieu of flowers) be made to:
Yesteryears Day Program (a program for frail, isolated, or impaired seniors)
2801 Wayne Street
Endwell, NY 13760
The Al Williamson Scholarship Fund
The Kubert School
37 Myrtle Avenue
Dover, NJ 07801
The family of Al Williamson has confirmed yesterday’s report that the legendary artist passed away on June 12 at age 79. According to a statement from the family, he had suffered in recent years from Alzheimer’s disease.
Tom Spurgeon has a detailed obituary for Williamson, whose long career and massive and varied output allowed several generations of fans and creators to be exposed to, and influenced by, his work. Some of those creators have been sharing their memories of Williamson, both personal and professional. Here’s a selection of those remembrances:
Michael Kaluta: “It was Al’s combination of draughtsmanship; composition; drama; and ability to add a sense of reality to an obviously fantastic setting, presented with profound elegance, that nailed my attention and devotion. His storytelling used apt gestures and body language as well as his native drawing ability to reinforce the world he was portraying. Along with the best artists, Al also had the ability to ‘make it look easy,’ to make even the student artist get caught up in reading the story instead of dissecting the art.”
Rick Veitch: “I’m sitting here feeling a lot of different emotions. Loss, of course, because I’ll never get to see Al again. But also amazement at his long and productive life; the kind of wonderful person he was, the astounding talent he had and the generous way he encouraged young artists like myself to pursue our dreams of doing comics.”
Although there’s no official confirmation, reports are widely circulating online that renowned artist Al Williamson passed away on Sunday at age 79.
Born on March 21, 1931, in New York City, Williamson took art classes in the mid-’40s with legendary Tarzan artist Burne Hogarth and, later, at Hogarth’s Cartoonists and Illustrators School in New York City. He assisted Hogarth on some Tarzan Sunday pages and, at age 17, made his professional debut working on series like Eastern Color’s Famous Funnies and Standard Comics’ Wonder Comics.
In 1952, Williamson began working for EC Comics, where he was the youngest member, and “kid brother,” of the “EC Family.” He primarily contributed to the company’s science fiction titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, often collaborating with Frank Frazetta, Roy Krenkel and Angelo Torres. In the mid- to late ’50s, he produced hundreds of pages of short stories — Westerns, mostly — for Atlas Comics. By the next decade, Williamson was assisting John Prentice on the Rip Kirby comic strip before helping Warren Publishing to launch its Creepy and Eerie horror magazines and contributing to Blazing Combat.