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Comics A.M. | Al Plastino’s Superman art arrives at JFK library

Superman's Mission for President Kennedy

Superman’s Mission for President Kennedy

Comics | Once the paperwork is complete, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library will officially own the original artwork for the 1964 DC Comics story “Superman’s Mission For President Kennedy,” fulfilling one of artist Al Plastino’s final wishes. Plastino, who passed away Nov. 25 at age 91, was surprised to discover at New York Comic Con a month earlier that the pages hadn’t been donated to the library five decades earlier, as he’d been led to believe, but were instead set to be sold at auction on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. The auction was put on hold until questions of ownership could be resolved, and Plastino spent the final weeks of his life campaigning for the return of the artwork, even petitioning a judge to force the auction house to reveal the name of the seller. DC Entertainment intervened in December to acquire the pages and give them to the library. “We are thrilled to receive this historic artwork and look forward to sharing it with the public when the legal transfer is completed,” library director Tom Putnam said in a statement. [Newsday]

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Cosmo the Merry Martian flies back to Riverdale

Archie 655If you’re observant and know your vintage comics characters, you may already be familiar with this guy: Cosmo the Merry Martian, who had his own Archie Comics title for six issues in the 1950s, back when the Space Race was a thing, and has appeared sporadically in the publisher’s digests ever since.

A couple of years ago, Cosmo began popping up for little cameos in Archie comics, and now he’s making a guest appearance in Archie #655 after his flying saucer crash-lands in Riverdale. The story is scripted by Archie veteran Tom DeFalco — he started his career as an editorial assistant at Archie — and drawn by Fernando Ruiz, who tells 13th Dimension he’s a longtime Cosmo fan:

Cosmo’s been a favorite of mine since his stories turned up in the Archie digests I read as a kid. Ever since I first started drawing for Archie, I hoped for the opportunity to draw him. Impatiently, I would sneak Cosmo into a lot of the Archie stories I drew in the form of a Cosmo cup, a Cosmo popsicle, or even a stuffed Cosmo doll. Now I get to draw him in a story where he really appears! It’s a dream come true!

Archie even had a “Where’s Cosmo” contest in March, inviting readers to look for the blobby extraterrestrial in Ruiz’s recent pages. If you want to get a look at the original Cosmo, check out these pages on Pappy’s Golden Age Comics Blogzine. Archie #655 will be out in April.

Comics A.M. | Author’s crusade to get Bill Finger credit

Bill Finger, by Ty Templeton

Bill Finger, by Ty Templeton

Creators | Author Marc Tyler Nobleman tells Michael Cavna about his crusade to gain recognition for Bill Finger as one of the co-creators of Batman — including a push to have Google honor him with a Google Doodle on his birthday: “As it currently stands, even the mighty Christopher Nolan could not legally credit Bill as co-creator. However, prior to The Dark Knight, I asked DC if they could use non-subjective language to acknowledge Bill. I proposed: ‘Batman was first called “the Dark Knight” in Batman #1, in 1940, in a story written by Bill Finger.’ DC publications already regularly credit Bill for that story, and the movie’s title doesn’t even include the word ‘Batman’ — it is wholly a phrase coined by Bill Finger. Alas, they said no.” [Comic Riffs]

Passings | Tulsa, Oklahoma, cartoonist Larry Pendleton, who created the syndicated single-panel cartoon Graphic Nature, has died at the age of 59. [Tulsa World]

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Comics A.M. | Case of Sherlock Holmes rights isn’t over just yet

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #2

Legal | As the dust begins to settle on the ruling last month by a federal judge that Arthur Conan Doyle’s first 50 Sherlock Holmes stories have lapsed into the public domain in the United States, out march the analyses pointing out the buts. Chief among them, of course, is the possibility of appeal by the Conan Doyle estate, which contends the characters were effectively incomplete until the author’s final story was published in the United States (the 10 stories published after Jan. 1, 1923, remain under copyright in this country until 2022).

However, Publishers Weekly notes that because U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo didn’t rule directly on that “novel” argument, the estate may be satisfied with the ambiguity of the decision, given that uncertain creators still may seek to license the characters to steer clear of any trouble. Estate lawyer Benjamin Allison also insists that the Sherlock Holmes trademarks remain unaffected, an assertion that puzzles author and scholar Leslie Klinger, who brought the lawsuit. “There is a very good reason why the Estate did not assert trademark protection: The Estate does not own any trademarks,” he told PW. “They have applied for them, and there will be substantial opposition.” There’s more at NPR, The Independent and The Atlantic. [Publishers Weekly]

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Dean Haspiel takes The Fox for a Silver Age spin

FOX3.02-CMYKDean Haspiel is one of the most visible creators working in comics today, and his style is equally recognizable, whether he is creating superhero comics or his own Billy Dogma stories at ACT-I-VATE, the webcomics site he co-founded in 2006.

Even when he’s working on someone else’s property, Haspiel has a way of making it his own, and this is particularly true of his revival of The Fox for Archie Comics’s Red Circle imprint. One of the earliest superheroes in comics, The Fox made his debut in 1940, back when the publisher was still called MLJ Comics, and has resurfaced several times since then; a new version of the character appeared in the 1980s in Blue Ribbon Comics and Mighty Crusaders.

In Haspiel’s hands, The Fox is a reluctant superhero, a “freak magnet” who can’t avoid getting into trouble but won’t run away from a fight. The third issue of the series, scripted by Mark Waid, arrives Jan. 8; Haspiel will be doing a signing that day at Forbidden Planet in New York City. We talked to Haspiel about his version of The Fox, and Archie sent along some art from Issue 3 to go with it.

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Comics A.M. | Former Archie Comics artist Janice Valleau dies

Toni Gayle

Toni Gayle

Passings | Artist Janice Valleau Winkelman, creator of the detective Toni Gayle, passed away on Dec. 8 at age 90. Winkleman, who drew under her maiden name Janice Valleau, had polio as a child and wore a brace through school. Her first work was published in Smash Comics in 1939, when she was 16. She studied at the Phoenix Art Institute and moved to New York, where she found steady work as a penciler and inker for Archie Comics and Quality Comics. She left the industry during the anti-comic crusades of the 1950; author David Hajdu profiled her in the prologue to his chronicle of those times, The Ten Cent Plague. According to the Grand Comics Database, one of her stories was reprinted as recently as last April, in Archie Double Digest #238. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Asterix’ family feud continues with Uderzo lawsuit

Asterix

Asterix

Legal | Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo has filed a legal complaint against his daughter Sylvie and her husband Bernard Choisy, claiming “psychological violence.” The dispute began in 2007, when Sylvie and Bernard were dismissed from their positions at Les Éditions Albert René, which published Asterix; a year later, Uderzo sold his stake in the company to Hachette Livre. The two filed their own legal challenge in 2011, claiming Uderzo, who is now 86, was being exploited by others. In this week’s filing, Uderzo says he is perfectly capable of managing his own affairs, and adds, “The sole purpose of these acts is to undermine our psychological integrity and to hasten our debility, in order to get their hands on our legacy, which they covet.” [The Guardian]

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Comics A.M. | WonderCon wants ‘to get back to the Bay Area’

WonderCon Anaheim

WonderCon Anaheim

Conventions | Although convention organizers rolled out an altered name — WonderCon Anaheim — and logo when they confirmed two weeks ago that the event will return to Anaheim, California, again next year, they insist they haven’t close the door on San Francisco. “We still want to get back to the Bay Area. [...] We are in touch with [the Moscone Center organizers] fairly regularly and we have an open dialogue,” says David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations. “They haven’t given up on us, either.” The convention was uprooted from the Moscone Center in 2012 first because of remodeling and now because of scheduling conflicts. WonderCon Anaheim will be held April 18-20. [Publishers Weekly]

Digital comics | I spoke with Archie Comics Co-CEO Jon Goldwater and iVerse Media CEO Michael Murphey about the new “all-you-can-eat” digital service, Archie Unlimited. [Good E-Reader]

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Comics A.M. | ‘Kuroko’s Basketball’ returns to shelves

Kuroko's Basketball

Kuroko’s Basketball

Retailing | The rental chain Tsutaya and the bookstore chain Yurindo have returned Kuroko’s Basketball books and DVDs to their shelves after “X-Day,” Nov. 4, passed without incident. Someone has sent hundreds of threatening letters to convention sites, bookstores, the media and Sophia University (the alma mater of Kuroko’s Basketball creator Tadatoshi Fujimaki), over the past year, and the most recent batch of letters said that “X-Day will be on the final day of the [Sophia University] school festival.” Meanwhile, police are checking security cameras near all the mailboxes in the districts from which the letters were mailed, looking for suspicious people. [Anime News Network]

Comics | Brian Steinberg looks at Archie Comics’ most radical move yet: the relatively adult Afterlife with Archie, which literally turned America’s most iconic teenagers into zombies. Steinberg talks to Archie CEO Jon Goldwater, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, artist Francesco Francavilla and others about the significance of this comic, which sold almost 65,000 copies to the direct market. [Variety]

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Washington Times frets about Muslim, ‘eerie’ gay superheroes

ms marvel1It’s little surprise that the editorial board of the conservative Washington Times didn’t embrace the announcement that the new Ms. Marvel is a 16-year-old Muslim from New Jersey, but the newspaper’s actual response is a bit … bewildering. One might even describe it as eerie.

Beginning a Sunday editorial with a declaration that “diversity and quotas are more important than dispatching evil” — because, as we all know, heroes can’t be diverse and fight villains! — the writer engages in a little concern trolling, warning that Ms. Marvel, and by extension Marvel, will have to be careful not to anger “militant Islam” if there’s any hope for newsstand sales in Muslim nations. Of course we’re told in the very next paragraph that, “Ms. Marvel probably won’t appear in comic books in Saudi Arabia, anyway,” which apparently takes care of that problem.

Once we slog through the bumbling writing and odd aside involving Secretary of State Kerry, however, we arrive at the crux of the Washington Times’ argument, such as it is: that diversity is strange and frightening.

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Victor Gorelick and Craig Yoe on ‘The Art of Archie: The Covers’

Archie CoversLast year, Archie Comics Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick and comics historian Craig Yoe compiled The Art of Betty and Veronica, the first art book ever released by the nearly 75-year-old publisher. Now they’re back with another deluxe, oversized volume, The Art of Archie: The Covers.

Like their previous book, this is more than just a series of pretty pictures. They kick it off with a look at how a cover is created, contrasting an original sketch by writer George Gladir with a finished cover, then showing the different states of another cover — line art, proofs, and finished product. They also include sections focusing on the individual artists, with a photo of each artist, a brief bio and a sample of his work.

I talked to Gorelick and Yoe about what went into compiling the book — and what went into creating the Archie covers in the first place. Gorelick, who’s been with the company for more than 50 years, drew on his own reminiscences about the way things used to happen behind the scenes.

Brigid Alverson: I’m going to start with the obvious question: Why covers?

Victor Gorelick: All of our covers tell a story. It’s not just some superhero flying around in some poses; you get a gag on the cover. It’s a little bit extra for your money.

Craig Yoe: They are closer to a New Yorker cartoon than a typical comic book cover that is maybe just a scene of action. These do have a nice little scenario and setup and payoff.

Gorelick: And also, we didn’t just paste in a bunch of covers. I have seen other cover books where you just see one cover after another. There’s a little more background on the covers. There are covers that were chosen by our fans — we put something up on the internet and we asked them to let us know what their favorites are.

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Comics A.M. | Rare Brazilian comics stolen in armed robbery

O Lobinho

O Lobinho

Crime | Three armed men invaded the home of comics collector Antonio Jose da Silva in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and held him and two employees at gunpoint while they stole more than 7,000 comics from his collection of about 200,000. The robbers seemed to know exactly what they were looking for, as they went straight for the most valuable books. Their haul included more than 200 first editions of O Lobinho and O Gibi, which reprinted translations of American comics in the 1930s and 1940s. The value of the thieves haul is estimated at $150,000, and the loss will be borne by da Silva, who was unable to get insurance for his collection. [The Comics Reporter]

Comics | Dana Jennings looks at the renewed interest in EC Comics, once reviled in the popular press as mind-destroying trash that would lead youths astray, now revered by the comics cognoscenti as subversive graphic literature. Locke & Key writer Joe Hill and EC Archives editor Russ Cochran weigh in, as does Fantagraphics President Gary Groth, editor of that company’s EC Library, who says, “They were arguably the best commercial comics company in the history of the medium, and their list of artists and writers between 1950 and 1955 represents a Who’s Who of the most accomplished craftsmen working in comics at that time.” [The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | Injured ‘Spider-Man’ dancer makes public appearance

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Stage | Dancer Daniel Curry, who was seriously injured during an Aug. 15 performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, made his first appearance since the accident at a benefit concert held Monday that raised $10,000 for his medical bills. Curry was injured when his leg was pinned by an automated trap door — he blames malfunctioning equipment, producers say it was human error — resulting in fractured legs and a fractured foot; he has undergone surgeries and unspecified amputations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Actors’ Equity have launched investigations into the accident, and Curry’s lawyers are exploring a possible lawsuit against the $75 million show and the equipment suppliers.

During previews of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — before the March 2011 firing of director Julie Taymor and the sweeping overhaul that followed — no fewer than five performers were injured, the most serious previously being aerialist Christopher Tierney, who fell about 30 feet in December 2010, breaking four ribs and fracturing three vertebrae. He returned to rehearsals four months later. There have been no major accidents since the show opened in June 2011. [The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | Cumbria comic festival already looking to next year

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival

Conventions | Declaring this weekend’s inaugural Lakes International Comic Art Festival in Kendal, Cumbria, England, a success, organizers have already announced the dates for next year’s event: Oct. 17-19. “Our first year has been everything we could have wished for,” said festival director Julie Tait. “There was a huge buzz right through Kendal – from The Brewery Arts Centre right to The Box on Wildman Street, as well as at the shopping centre and the library. The town has really got involved and there has been art work on every street. It feels like the weekend has involved everyone – from adults following their passion for Viz humour to kids learning how Peppa Pig was created.” This year’s festival featured guests ranging from Charlie Adlard and Ed Brubaker to David Lloyd and Trina Robbins. [Cumbria Live]

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Robot Reviews | ‘Afterlife with Archie’ #1

Afterlife with Archie #1

Afterlife with Archie #1

Afterlife with Archie started out for me with a couple of potential negatives: I’m not a fan of horror comics, and I firmly believe the zombie subgenre has played itself out. But if there’s one factor that could make me enjoy a zombie comic, it’s the art of Francesco Francavilla.

The ongoing series, written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, marks a significant departure for Archie Comics, in large part because it’s the publisher’s first direct market-only release. One has to wonder how much this will benefit the publisher, whose audience is found primarily outside of specialty stores, and whether its potential success will lead to more direct market-only titles.

But enough about the business aspects of Life with Archie; let’s focus on what makes its debut issue such a must-read. As much as the Archie line has redefined itself in recent years (the marriage storyline/titles, the introduction of gay character Kevin Keller, etc.), the use of an artist like Francavilla represents another leap. I count him among my favorite current artists for much the same reason I rave about Gabriel Hardman; When reading a story by either creator, the experience is like having a film playing in my head.

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