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Conversing on Comics with Justin Gray

COC Justin Gray

Unpredictability. For some people that’s a negative trait, but in comics it can be advantageous.

Justin Gray is unpredictable, in a good way. While some writers fall into the trap of working within one genre or one flavor of story, Gray has quietly created one of the most diverse bibliographies in comics with his frequent collaborator Jimmy Palmiotti. He’s done superheroes for DC Comics and Marvel, including a celebrated run on Power Girl. He’s written a variety of creator-owned work, from the early 21 Down and The Resistance at DC/Wildstorm to more biting, adult fare like Random Acts of Violence and the recently released Sex & Violence. He’s also become an in-demand writer of comic-centric video games, working on DC’s Injustice: Gods Among Us, Mortal Kombat vs. The DC Universe and others.

Oh, yeah, and he and Palmiotti helped to prevent Jonah Hex from becoming a footnote in comics history.

While other writers like Grant Morrison and Brian Michael Bendis might soak up most of the spotlight, Gray is quietly able to jump from one project, genre or medium to the next.

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC’s December is getting closer all the time

Not the face!

Here in Memphis this week, September finally turned the corner into fall. High temperatures are mostly in the 70s, the air is getting crisper, and the sky is turning a paler blue. Unlike July or August, when October and November seem far in the future, a nice September makes December that much easier to imagine.

In September you start to settle into the routine which will take you through the winter — and that’s apparently true as well for the New 52 superhero books. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

MOVERS AND SHAKERS

Ivan Reis and Joe Prado head to Justice League with December’s Issue 15, and I for one am happy. Although I like Jim Lee fine, I think Reis is better-suited to big, multiple-character action. It’s hard for me to explain the distinction, so consider this: How would “Sinestro Corps” or Blackest Night have looked if Lee had drawn them?  Reis manages crowds quite well, and Justice League should be crowded.

Also, while I’ve been rather down on Justice League of late, the expanded roster (teased over a year ago) and the Atlantis-centered storyline make me optimistic that the book is … well, doing what I’d like it to do, which is being a showcase for, and gateway to, the larger superhero universe. So, well done, solicitation!

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Grumpy Old Fan | Relaunch roundup, Part 1

After a year, I still don't quite get the knee-braces

Because it’s the first week of the New 52 Year Two, the time has come to review where I stand at the end of Year One. It also happens to be the week I’m away on a bidness trip, unable to react to whatever dern-fool thing DC did on Wednesday.

That would probably take a back seat anyway, because I’m a little curious myself to look back at these books. In terms of reading habits, it’s been a rather funky year. Some weeks I wouldn’t have time to read everything I bought, and sometimes that meant books just dropped off my radar. I caught up with a few of these, but a few I just didn’t miss — which, of course, is never a good thing.

You’ll remember that last year I bought all 52 first issues, and talked about each as September proceeded.  Of those which remain, I am reading 27: Action Comics, All-Star Western, Animal Man, Aquaman, Batgirl, Batman, Batman & Robin, Batwing, Batwoman, Blue Beetle, Catwoman, DC Universe Presents, Demon Knights, Detective Comics, Firestorm, Flash, Frankenstein, Green Lantern, GL Corps, I, Vampire, Justice League, Justice League Dark, Stormwatch, Supergirl, Superman, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman.

Additionally, I was reading six titles that have since been canceled: Blackhawks, JLI, Men of War, OMAC, Resurrection Man and Static Shock. For a while I also read Grifter, Red Lanterns, and Superboy. Filling in some of those holes are second-wave titles Batman Incorporated, Earth 2, Worlds’ Finest and Dial H.

To keep your eyes as glaze-free as possible, this will be a two-part survey. Today we’ll look at the Superman and Batman families, the “historical” titles, the main-line Justice League books, and a few others.

Onward!

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Grumpy Old Fan | My hero Zero: DC’s September solicits

The Lana/Lois team-up YOU demanded!

DC Comics in September brings together two gimmicks. This being corporate-run superhero comics, naturally these two things have been tried before. September’s unified cover themes remind me of January 2009′s “Faces of Evil” (not particularly uplifting) and January 2011′s “Salute to White Space.”  The new “Zero Month” recalls August 1994, when every main-line DC superhero title got an Issue #0 in the wake of July’s weekly, timeline-tweaking Zero Hour miniseries. Just over four years later, in September 1998, the weekly DC One Million miniseries launched all the superhero books into the 853rd Century with #1,000,000 issues.

Personally, I’m looking forward to September 2013′s Roman Numeral Month, September 2014′s Hexadecimal Month, and September 2015′s Binary Month (can’t wait for Justice League #100100!).
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What Are You Reading? with Thomas Hall

Milk & Cheese

Welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where we share what comics, books and other good stuff we’ve been checking out lately. This week our special guest is Thomas Hall, writer of the science fiction/fantasy comic Robot 13.

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

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Grumpy Old Fan | DC in April: Goodbye doesn’t mean forever

I will not caption this cover "Pistol Packin' Mama"

The big news from April’s solicitations was revealed last week, as DC announced the cancellation of six of the original New-52 books (to be replaced with five new series plus the returning Batman Incorporated). While there’s more to say about this on its merits, I do like DC keeping a fixed number of ongoing series. Nerds love structure, right? (Besides, it’s kind of like programming a television schedule.)

Of course, just two weeks ago I predicted that all of the original New-52 books would get to their twelfth issues, in part so that DC could claim they each “told their stories.” That doesn’t seem to be the case here, at least not from the solicitation texts. Instead, the solicits for each final issue mostly advertise how the series are all going down swinging. We know now, too, that in some ways this isn’t really the end: Mister Terrific’s Karen Starr looks like the Power Girl of the upcoming Worlds’ Finest; Men Of War’s superhero/military mashup should transition smoothly to G.I. Combat; and I don’t think DC will kill off Hawk and Dove again.

Actually, if I were Captain Atom, I’d be a little nervous. According to ICV2′s December sales estimates, Hawk & Dove was the highest-selling New-52 book to be cancelled (18,014 copies at #114), but CA was right behind (17,917; #115).

Anyway, on to the solicits themselves….

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Comics A.M. | Angoulême Official Selections; cartoonist suspended

Angoulême International Comics Festival

Conventions | The Angoulême International Comics Festival has announced the Official Selections for the 2012 festival, which will be held Jan. 26-29 in Angoulême, France. Eddie Campbell’s Alec, Craig Thompson’s Habibi and Daniel Clowes’ Mister Wonderful are among the almost 60 graphic novels on the list. [Angoulême]

Editorial cartoons | The Columbus Dispatch suspended political cartoonist Jeff Stahler after finding that his Monday cartoon was too similar to a New Yorker cartoon published in 2009. At The Daily Cartoonist, Alan Gardner posts several of Stahler’s cartoons alongside earlier pieces with similar punchlines. While one can debate whether Stahler lifted his ideas from the older cartoons, it’s obvious that he drew them in his own style, unlike David Simpson, who was recently accused of copying Jeff McNally’s cartoons. [Comic Riffs]

Crime | Several pieces of original artwork, among other items, were stolen from the car of AdHouse Publisher Chris Pitzer while he was in New York City last weekend for the Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. Pitzer is offering a reward for any information leading to the recovery of the artwork. [AdHouse]

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What Are You Reading? with Jacquelene Cohen

Drunk Elephant Comics

Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, your weekly look into our reading piles. Today we’re joined by special guest Jacquelene Cohen, director of publicity and promotions for Fantagraphics Books.

To see what Jacq and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, read on …

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Grumpy Old Fan | New 52 Week 2: You again?

Frankenstein, Agent Of SHADE #1

This week, I count at least five New-52 books picking up pretty much where they left off. Chief among these are Green Lantern and Red Lanterns; followed by Batwoman, which was supposed to come out months ago. Batman and Robin keeps its previously-announced regular creative team, and Legion Lost spins out of the pre-existing Legion of Super-Heroes. Overall I thought this week was pretty strong, but there were a few clunkers, including at least one book which really disappointed.

Just think — after this week, we’re more than halfway done…!

SPOILERS FOLLOW, but not too many.

* * *
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What Are You Reading? with special guest Janice Headley

Big Questions

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly column where we successfully answer the question in the title. Our special guest this week is Janice Headley, events coordinator, publicist and “ambassador of awesome” for Fantagraphics.

To see what Janice and the Robot 6 crew have been reading this week, click the link below.

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DC’s mainstream push for New 52: Diversity, digital and detectives

Batwing #1

DC Comics continues its promotional assault in the press to push “The New 52″ to a mainstream audience, with the theme this week, apparently, being diversity. At least four stories this week — three of which were posted Wednesday — tackled the subject and put the spotlight on Static Shock, Batwing and more. Here are some of the highlights:

• The Huffington Post previewed the first issue of Judd Winick and Ben Oliver’s Batwing yesterday, the same day it arrived in shops. Winick spoke to Bryan Young about the origins of Africa’s Batman: “… if you consider that we’re coming from a starting place that this is a Batman who lost his parents to AIDS and was a boy soldier. That’s square one for us. In the first couple of pages Batwing is talking about the fact that one of the things Batman has to do is instill fear. And Batwing points out that he’s not really sure that a man dressed up as a bat is really going to scare the average criminal in Africa. Batman just tells him that ‘you’re just going to have to sell it.’ And that’s the point, it’s a different world.” An unabridged version of the interview can be found at Big Shiny Robot.

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New 52 Pickup | Week 2

It’s finally here: The first full week of DC’s New 52 brought 13 brand-new titles – only the tip of the iceberg as September progresses. If the quality of this week’s books is any indication of the rest of the New 52, there will be some very difficult cuts to make at the end of the month.

From now through the end of September, I’ll provide brief overviews of each book with the pull-list status at the end. With no further ado, it’s time to jump into Week 2 of the New 52! Prepare for a number of Bat-family books, the new JLI, Sgt. Rock for the modern age and more!

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

Animal Man
Written by Jeff Lemire with art by Travel Foreman

This book sets the benchmark for this week as to what a New 52 #1 should be. Jeff Lemire brings new life to Buddy Baker in an incredible story that both takes advantage of the character’s rich history and introduces new elements in the spirit of DC’s relaunch. Not only does Lemire give readers a welcome reintroduction to Animal Man with a stunning cliffhanger that will leave them wanting more, Travel Foreman’s interior pencils are gorgeous, only adding to the unique feel that Lemire gives this title. It’s a great first issue, and I can’t wait to read more. If I could read only one New 52 issue this week, this would be it.

Status: IN

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Food or Comics? | Casanova, New 52 and more

Casanova: Avaritia

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.

Chris Mautner

If I had $15:

I’m very excited to read Casanova: Avaritia ($4.99), the first new Casanova storyline in what seems like a dog’s age. There’s something about this series that seems to bring out Fraction’s best, perhaps it’s the mere fact he’s working with Fabio Moon and (this time around) Gabriel Ba allows him to rise to the occasion. That and The Boys #58 ($3.99) will probably round out my initial purchases.

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DC’s mainstream push for New 52: ‘Even the haters are curious’

DC Comics: The New 52

Ahead of the release on Wednesday of Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1, signaling the beginning of its line-wide relaunch, DC Comics has kicked off a promotional assault in the mainstream press to sell “The New 52″ to a broader audience. While USA Today, with a circulation of 1.8 million the second-largest newspaper in the United States, looks to be the hub for coverage, DC has also reached out to publications like the New York Daily News, the New York Post and the Boston Herald. Here are the highlights so far from the 11th-hour push:

• A spoiler-heavy preview of Flashpoint #5 in USA Today lays out how the dystopic, casualty-strewn world depicted in the crossover got that way.

• USA Today takes a broad overview of the relaunch, talking with DC Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee, Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns, and a couple of retailers. “There are plenty of angry customers over this,” says John Robinson, co-owner of Graham Crackers Comics chain in Illinois. “I’ve heard the usual ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this,’ ‘They’ve betrayed us,’ etc. I’d say about 60% to 70% of those protesting the loudest will still end up buying the stuff. There’s just too much hype and interest — even the haters are curious.”

• The newspaper also hones in on the publisher’s new same-day digital strategy, which debuts Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET when Justice League #1 will be available for purchase digitally. Hank Kanalz, senior vice president for digital at DC Entertainment, acknowledges the challenges of getting the initiative off the ground: “Some books are working really far ahead of schedule, some are down to the wire, and it’s just a matter of coordinating and about overcommunicating. We have to make sure it goes off without a hitch, which is why we’re not sleeping right now. We’re going much wider to a mass audience than ever before, so it’s a matter of making sure we have everything ready to go.”

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Grumpy Old Fan | Blowed up real good

Justice League #1

[Note: This post was written Wednesday night, before the latest round of announcements.]

I was barely into the back yard when the lawn mower exploded.

This mower was far from new. My wife had owned it since a few years before we met, and it may have been old when she got it. It had cut the grass of at least four different addresses in three different states, and had been maintained and serviced fairly faithfully throughout its life. This summer, however, its persistent little engine had been making ominous noises that my amateur care could not entirely mitigate. When it ran over that big limb, which it tried mightily to shred as it had so many others, the stresses proved to be too much. The next thing I knew, there was a puff of smoke, a spray of oil, and a silver-dollar-sized hole in the mower’s side.

I pointed that out to my wife, to drive home the extent of the damage. “See that in the hole? That’s the piston.”

“We’ll take it to Sears in the morning,” was her reply.

Well, needless to say, by this point we were talking about an ex-mower. The most the Sears mechanics could suggest was to order a part that would cost more than a new mower. This was the tipping point for my wife, when practicality superseded sentiment. Indeed, the new mower is remarkably efficient by comparison, atomizing clippings and leaving a uniform green carpet in its wake. It is cool and bloodless, like a Secret Service agent or an athlete in prime condition. With luck, it will serve us as long and as well as its predecessor.

Now, clearly I am not telling you about my lawn mower because this has turned into “Grumpy Old Garden.” Neither am I saying DC had a gaping hole in its superhero line and we readers thought it could be simply patched. There was, and is, no simple solution — not even starting over entirely — to DC’s array of small and large ailments. A few weeks ago I talked about the relationships we readers form with these characters over time, and I can see a couple of ways to roll back whatever Flashpoint facilitates.

Still, after a week’s worth of pondering September’s lineup, I have decided it is time to embrace the new.

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