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Ware, Bechdel make the cut for LA Times Book Prizes

UnterzakhnThe finalists for this year’s Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were announced late last week, and the five graphic novel nominees are

  • Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama
  • Leela Corman’s Unterzakhn
  • Sammy Harkham’s Everything Together: Collected Stories
  • Spain Rodriguez’s Cruisin’ With the Hound: The Life and Times of Fred Toote
  • Chris Ware’s Building Stories

The winner will be announced April 19. This is the fourth year that graphic novels have been included, and not surprisingly, given that this is a book award, the selections generally have an artistic/literary bent.

Unlike the Eisners, the LA Times awards do not accept nominations from the field; the three judges in each category are responsible for making the selections. Unlike the Eisners and other comics awards, the LA Times doesn’t make a big deal over who the judges are; I couldn’t find a list anywhere, although past judges get a mention here and there.

Anyway, given that any set of awards nominations is really just a starting point for discussion, feel free to comment on what books should — and shouldn’t — have made the shortlist.


Comics A.M. | DC Comics retains rights to The Spirit Archives

The Spirit Archives, Vol. 1

Publishing | DC Comics may no longer hold the rights to create new stories about The Spirit and other pulp heroes like Doc Savage and The Avenger, but it does retain the license to publish The Spirit Archives for “the foreseeable future,” according to Denis Kitchen, agent for the Will Eisner estate. Most of the hardcover collections are out of print. [The Beat]

Digital comics | Third time’s the charm for retailer Steve Bennett, as he goes through three different tablets (one was stolen, one malfunctioned) on his way to the ideal digital comics experience. [ICv2]

Creators | Tom Spurgeon kicks off his annual round of holiday interviews with a lengthy conversation with Alison Bechdel, creator of Fun Home and Are You My Mother? [The Comics Reporter]

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What Are You Reading? with Ron Marz

Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, where today we welcome special guest Ron Marz. Marz has written everything from Green Lantern to Witchblade, and you can currently find him working on comics like Artifacts, Prophecy, Blackburn Burrow and The Ride: Southern Gothic. He also writes the column Shelf Life for Comic Book Resources and can be found on Twitter.

To see what Ron and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Comics A.M. | Fun Home musical to open in New York City

From "Fun Home"

Graphic novels | A musical based on Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home will open the fall season of the Public Lab series of the Public Theater in New York City. Featuring music by four-time Tony Award nominee Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Tony nominee Lisa Kron, the show is scheduled to run from Oct. 17 through Nov. 4 at the Shiva Theater. [The New York Times, The Public Theater]

Creators | Gilbert Hernandez guests on the comiXologist podcast to talk about Love and Rockets and what he has been reading lately. [comiXology]

Creators | Brian Wood and Ming Doyle talk about their new comic Mara, which will debut from Image Comics in December and features a volleyball player with superpowers in a world where sports and warfare are no longer so far apart. While Wood is not really a sports fan, he is fascinated by the portrayal of athletes in popular culture: “‘This is tied into the superhero thing, recognizing parallels between the two,’ Wood says. ‘I think there’s a lot to talk about there and part of me feels I’ll need more than one comic series to do it in. We’ll see.’” [USA Today]

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Comics A.M. | Batman dominates August bookstore sales

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns

Retailing | DC Comics dominated bookstore graphic novel sales in August, probably because of the release of The Dark Knight Rises and a “buy two, get one free” sale on DC graphic novels at Barnes & Noble. Six of the Top 10 titles are Batman comics, with The Walking Dead, Watchmen, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Naruto each taking a slot as well. [ICv2]

Creators | Judge Dredd writer John Wagner talks about the origins of his character, the importance of U.K. publisher DC Thomson, and his dislike of digital comics. [The Daily Record]

Creators | Nick Spencer guests on Kieron Gillen’s podcast to discuss Morning Glories. [Kieron Gillen's Workblog]

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Comics A.M. | The Rover artist Douglas Phillips passes away

Douglas Phillips

Passings | Douglas Phillips, who drew many stories over the years for the rough-and-tumble British boys’ comics The Rover and The Victor, has died at the age of 85. [Blimey!]

Creators | David Macho shares his memory of the graciousness of the late Sergio Toppi, who passed away this week. [The Beat]

Creators | Green Lantern writer (and DC chief creative officer) Geoff Johns is returning to his hometown, Detroit, to appear at a comics shop and the Arab American National Museum, promoting Baz, the first Arab-American Green Lantern. Johns himself is of Lebanese descent. [Detroit Free Press]

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Food or Comics | Hawkeyed peas

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.

Hawkeye #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start things off with Hawkeye #1 (Marvel, $2.99). David Aja’s built up a great track record from his run on Iron Fist to his various one-off issues in and around the Marvel Universe, so seeing him re-team withIron Fist co-writer Matt Fraction is something special. Without creators like these I’d probably balk at a Hawkeye series, but they make this a must-buy. After that I’d get another first issue, Image’s Harvest #1 (Image, $3.50). AJ Lieberman’s quietly written a number of great stories, and this one seems pretty inventive. I might’ve waited for the trade on this, but newcomer Colin Lorimer’s art on it makes me think he’s going to be a big deal and I need to know about it. For the bronze in my $15 pile, it’s Avengers Vs. X-Men #9 (Marvel, $3.99). This week, Jason Aaron and Andy Kubert take point, re-teaming from their great but under-appreciated Astonishing Wolverine and Spider-Man series from a while back. Lastly, I’d get Daredevil #16 (Marvel, $2.99) because Waid is bringing his A-game, and the recent addition of Chris Samnee only makes it even more impressive. The previews for this issue shows guest appearances by Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Iron Man, so it’ll be interesting to see how Waid factors them into Matt’s world.

If I had $30, I’d get Thief of Thieves #7 (Image, $2.99), which is becoming one of my favorite Image books and Nick Spencer’s finest at the moment. Having Shawn Martinbrough draw it only helps. After that, I’d get Earth 2 #4 (DC, $2.99). James Robinson is really living up to the “New 52” moniker by giving us one of the most imaginative and different takes on the DCU, and Nicola Scott is drawing up a storm here. After that, I’d tie things up with RASL #15 ($4.99). Jeff, you get my money sight unseen.

If I could splurge, I’d take a chance and order Absalom: Ghosts of London (2000 AD, $17.99) because it looks pretty great. British cops governing over an ages-old pact between the English government and hell? Hell yeah.

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Comics A.M. | Retailers remain upbeat: “2012 is rocking it”

The Walking Dead #100

Retailing | Heidi MacDonald reports on the retailer lunch at Comic-Con International, where spirits were running high after an exceptionally good year, with sales up 13 percent over 2011. Retailers shared success stories, Diamond Comic Distributors offered incentives for new businesses, and MacDonald pulled out an interestingly eclectic list of titles that are spurring sales, including The Walking Dead, Saga, and Jeffrey Brown’s cat cartoons and Vader and Son. [Publishers Weekly]

Publishing | ICv2 talks to the Viz Media executives about a range of topics, including the stabilization of the manga market, new interest from comics retailers, the shift to digital, and an uptick in the popularity of shoujo (girls’) manga. [ICv2]

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Testing Bechdel: Eight thoughts on Are You My Mother?

1.) It seems appropriate to begin a discussion of Alison Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama with an anecdote about myself, rather than something about the cartoonist, her book or its subject matter.

I used to work at a library that was in the midst of reorganizing certain sections of its adult collection along a more bookstore-like model, with books of certain genres being grouped together to be more browsable than the previous, more standard set-up, which had all the non-fiction shelved according to the Dewey Decimal System and fiction by the author’s name.

One day I and another librarian were pulling memoirs to put in the newly designated memoir section, and she mentioned something about a “Mommy Didn’t Love Me Enough” books, which I didn’t quite catch. “Oh,” she explained, “That’s what I call some of these memoirs, ‘Mommy Didn’t Love Me Enough Books.’ Once you get past the particulars, that’s what a lot of them boil down to.”

Are You My Mother? is Bechdel’s follow-up to Fun Home, her 2007 memoir about her father, and focuses on her other parent.  As I was reading, I suddenly recalled that conversation from a few years ago, and wondered what my former co-worker would have made of this book, provided she would be able to read all that much of it before giving up.

I have to assume she would regard it as the nee plus ultra of “Mommy Didn’t Love Me Enough” memoirs.

Only in comics instead of prose.

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Robot Reviews | Are You My Mother? and Unterzakhn

Are You My Mother?

Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama
by Alison Bechdel
Houghton Mifflin, $22.

Unterzakhn
by Leela Corman
Schocken Books, $24.95

Are You My Mother is one tough nut of a book. Dense, analytical, filled with allusions to classic literature and psychoanalysis, it consciously resists easy interpretation or tried and true conventions. It’s an adventurous, thoughtful and fascinating book —  I have no qualms about recommending it — but it’s chilly and distancing, and I suspect it will frustrate many readers, even those who cherished author Alison Bechdel’s previous book Fun Home. 

Mother is in many ways a direct sequel to Fun Home, Bechdel’s highly touted and incredibly successful (at least in comic book terms) memoir of her father. It’s not impossible to come to Mother never having read any of Bechdel’s previous work, but the book refers directly to issues raised in Fun Home, so being acquainted will undoubtedly help.

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Comics A.M. | Eight months in, New 52 isn’t sales ‘game-changer’

DC Comics

Publishing | Eight months after the launch of DC Comics’ New 52, Marc-Oliver Frisch takes a look at the reboot and concludes that it is not the “game-changer” it was touted to be. After an initial burst of sales when the series was launched, DC’s monthly numbers have settled down to about half the September sales, above the previous year’s levels but best described, as Frisch puts it, as “solid but not spectacular.” [Comiks Debris]

Digital comics | Anthony Ha looks at the success of the Pocket God comic, which is marketed alongside the game; more than 200,000 copies of the first issue have been sold, and sales for the whole series total 600,000. Dave Castelnuovo of Bolt Creative thinks the strong sales are due in part to the 99-cent cover price: “Meanwhile, the traditional publishers don’t want to undercut their print prices, so they’re usually charging $2.99 or $3.99 for new issues. (Some older comics are available for considerably less.) Castelnuovo says that’s ‘just too expensive’ for digital comics, especially when they’re competing with something like Angry Birds, which offers more content for just 99 cents. And although Marvel and DC are sell digital collections, Castelnuovo argues that they should be doing more to bundle dozens or even hundreds of issues together, so that readers can ‘blaze through them’ the way that they will consume entire seasons of Mad Men or Game of Thrones.” [TechCrunch]

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Comics A.M. | Comic-Con to resell 5,000 one-day passes

Comic-Con International

Conventions | Organizers of the sold-out Comic-Con International will resell 5,000 one-day passes for the July 12-15 convention. No date has been announced for the online sale of the canceled or returned badges; to receive notification, and to participate, convention hopefuls must sign up for a member ID by 5:30 p.m. PT Thursday. Badges sold out the first time within an hour and 20 minutes. [U-T San Diego, Comic-Con International]

Comics | Following up on the news of the impending Northstar-Kyle wedding, Michael Cavna talks to Tom Batiuk (Funky Winkerbean), Jon Goldwater (Archie Comics) and Paige Braddock (Jane’s World) about writing about gay relationships — and dealing with their editors and syndicators. [Comic Riffs]

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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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Comics A.M. | Batman #1 fetches record $850,000 in private sale

Batman #1

Comics | A near-mint copy of 1940′s Batman #1, which marks the first appearances of the Joker and Catwoman, sold this week for $850,000 — a record for that issue — in a private transaction arranged by Heritage Auctions. The seller purchased the comic just two years ago for $315,000. [CNN]

Publishing | Cory Casoni is leaving his position as director of marketing for Oni Press for a position with NAMCO BANDAI Games Inc. as the head of marketing for ShiftyLook comics. Thomas Shimmin and Amber LaPraim, who joined Oni earlier this year, are taking joint positions as marketing coordinators. [press release]

Creators | Alison Bechdel discusses her family, her psyche, and the challenges of drawing a memoir that’s set in therapy sessions: “I watched all the episodes of “In Treatment” at one point, to see how they managed to make two people sitting in a room so very dramatic. And it was basically just good writing and good acting. So that gave me the hope that I could pull this story off without adding a car chase or an explosion. Though there is a kind of a car chase, now that I think of it, when a Sunbeam bread truck almost runs me off the road. My story also goes in and out of other texts — movies, psychoanalytic papers, children’s books — which creates some more overt visual excitement. And I use a dream to begin each chapter. I know you’re not supposed to write about your dreams, but the dreams have a dramatic sweep that everyday life doesn’t.” [The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | Tunisian broadcaster fined for airing Persepolis

Persepolis

Legal | A Tunisian court last week convicted Nessma TV President Nebil Karoui of “disturbing public order” and “threatening public morals” by broadcasting the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, which features a scene that briefly shows an image of God. The Oct. 7 airing resulted in an attempted arson attack on the network’s offices and the arrest of some 50 protesters. Karoui was fined $1,600 by the five-judge panel; two members of his staff were fined $800 each. Prosecutors and attorneys representing Islamist groups pushed for Karoui to be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Others argued for the death penalty. [The Washington Post]

Business | Target will stop selling Amazon’s Kindle devices in its stores over a dispute regarding “showrooming,” where consumers check out a product at Target stores and then go home to buy it on Amazon for a cheaper price. Around Christmas, Amazon’s Price Check app gave shoppers a 5 percent discount on any item scanned at a retail store. “What we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices,” Target executives wrote in a letter to vendors. Target will continue to carry Apple’s iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and the Aluratek Libre. [The New York Times]

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