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Fabletown and Beyond convention begins to take shape

Bill Willingham sent out a newsletter last week to those who expressed interest in his inaugural Fabletown and Beyond convention next March in Rochester, Minnesota. It was a long email, so I’ll just hit the highlights, but those who want to learn more can do so at the convention’s website or by following the event on Twitter.

Fabletown and Beyond will celebrate what Willingham calls “Mythic Fiction,” which includes books about fables, fairy tales, folklore and mythology. “It’s a growing movement within entertainment as a whole, and comics in particular,” Willingham writes. “We decided it needed its own convention to better explore and appreciate.”

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Comics A.M. | Buried Under Comics gets new name, new owner

Buried Under Comics

Retailing | The Manchester, Connecticut, comics store Buried Under Comics will reopen with a new name, A Hero’s Journey, and a new owner, April Kenney. A friend of previous owner Brian Kozicki, who died unexpectedly last month, Kenney arranged to purchase the store from Kozicki’s family. []

Retailing | Toronto retailer Silver Snail has moved from its longtime location on Queen Street to Yonge Street. [CityNews]

Publishing | Brian Smith, the DC Comics associate editor publicly ridiculed by Rob Liefeld last month, has announced his departure from the company, apparently under amicable circumstances. Nonetheless, Liefeld took a parting shot on Twitter. [Blog@Newsarama]

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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. | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan tops 9 million in Japan

Attack on Titan, Vol. 1

Publishing | Kodansha’s Attack on Titan, the action-fantasy manga by Hajime Isayama, has sold more than 9 million copies in Japan, according to the Sports Nippon newspaper. The eighth volume was released last week in Japan; Kodansha USA will publish the second volume next month in North America. [Anime News Network]

Publishing | Alex Zalben pays a visit to the Valiant offices and talks shop with editor Warren Simons: “Asking whether the idea was to set these up so that you can go right to TV, video games, or other properties, Simons strongly denies that was behind the relaunch. ‘I think you have guys who really love comic books,’ said Simons. ‘I’m just interested in publishing comic books. Obviously in this space, in this day and age you want to pay attention to everything – just like everyone does. But I think it all derives from publishing … [The publishers] just wanted to read comics about the characters that they loved growing up!'” [MTV Geek]

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Comics A.M. | Remembering Maurice Sendak; IDW’s digital sales

Where the Wild Things Are?

Passings | The Comics Journal collects tributes to Maurice Sendak, the legendary children’s book author and illustrator who passed away Tuesday at age 83. Philip Nel, director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature, also writes an obituary for the influential creator of Where the Wild Things Are. []

Publishing | In an interview with the retail news and analysis site ICv2, IDW Publishing President and CEO Ted Adams says that while digital sales are at 10 percent of print sales, both are going up: “There’s just no question at this point that selling comics digitally is definitively not impacting [print] comic book sales. If anything you could make the argument that the success of digital is driving more print comic book sales. The correlation at this point is that increased digital has resulted in increased print. Whether or not that is a direct correlation, I don’t know how you would figure that out. I can say with no uncertainty that our increased digital revenue has come at a time when we’ve had increased comic book sales.” [ICv2]

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Roberson no longer writing an arc of Fairest

Fairest #3

Following his announcement that after an upcoming arc of the Fables spinoff Fairest he’s done writing for DC Comics, writer Chris Roberson said today that the Fairest arc he was scheduled to write is no longer happening.

“Sorry to disappoint anyone, but I won’t be writing a Fairest arc after all,” Roberson said on Twitter. “It was decided my services were no longer required.”

The tweet was soon followed by a show of support from Fables creator Bill Willingham: “Not decided by me. I will work with @chris_roberson any time. Any place.”

If you missed it yesterday, Roberson announced he would no longer write for the publisher based on their treatment of other creators and their heirs. “My reasons for no longer wanting to be associated with DC don’t stem from anything to do with my personal experiences there, but from watching the way that the company has treated and continues to treat other creators and their heirs,” Roberson told CBR yesterday. “The counter-suit against the Siegel estate and the announcement of the Watchmen prequels were the specific incidents that crystallized my feelings on the matter. I’d like to make clear, though, that I have nothing but nice things to say about the editorial staff at Vertigo with whom I’ve worked for the past few years.”

Roberson, who has written not only the awesome iZombie and various Cinderella spinoff mini’s but also took over as writer of Superman after J. Michael Straczynski left the title, has taken a stand based on principle and has now paid the price by having paying work taken from him. No doubt he expected it–hell, given DC’s history, everyone probably knew this would happen–and I give him big props for doing it anyway.

And as Kurt Busiek said in our comments section yesterday, DC ain’t the only game in town. “I am privy to a little inside information of what @chris_roberson will be doing instead of his Fairest arc and it will be awesome. So there,” Willingham said.

Update: Roberson says that he has been paid for the work he’s already turned in on Fairest.

Nominees announced for 2012 Hugo Awards

Finalists have been announced for the 2011 Hugo Awards, which recognize the best in science fiction and fantasy. Presented annually since 1955 by the World Science Fiction Society, the Hugo is among science fiction’s most prestigious awards.

This year’s winners will be presented Sept. 2 in Chicago during Chicon 7, the 70th World Science Fiction Convention.

The nominees for best graphic story are:

Digger, by Ursula Vernon (Sofawolf Press)
Fables, Vol. 15: Rose Red, by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (Vertigo)
Locke & Key, Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom, written by Joe Hill, illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW Publishing)
Schlock Mercenary: Force Multiplication, written and illustrated by Howard Tayler, colors by Travis Walton (The Tayler Corporation)
The Unwritten, Vol. 4: Leviathan, created by Mike Carey and Peter Gross, written by Mike Carey, illustrated by Peter Gross (Vertigo)

This is the fourth year for the graphic story category. Girl Genius, which won the first three years, was not included on the ballot at the request of creators Phil and Kaja Foglio.

Nominees of note in other categories include Dan dos Santos for best professional artist, xkcd creator Randall Munroe for best fan artist, and Captain America: The First Avenger and Hugo for best dramatic presentation-long form. See the full list of nominees on the Hugo Awards website.

Comics A.M. | Single-issue sales jump 22% in February

Justice Legaue #6

Publishing | Single-issue comics sales last month were up 22.26 percent over February 2011, and graphic novels were up 15.6 percent, making for a good month for publishers and retailers. (Of course, there were five Wednesdays in February, which may have something to do with it.) As in previous months, DC sold the most comics but Marvel, with higher cover prices, topped its competitor in terms of dollar share. [ICv2]

Publishing | The top-selling graphic novel in bookstores last month was part one of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Promise, written by Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese). The Walking Dead books took four of the top 20 spots, or a healthy 20 percent of the list, and 13 of the bestsellers were manga. [ICv2]

Publishing | Marvel is cutting costs on its $2.99 comics by going with “self covers,” which just means that the covers are the same paper as the inside of the comic, rather than heavier stock. As the insides are glossy paper anyway, Todd Allen feels the difference is barely noticeable—and that the real news is that Marvel is finding it necessary to cut costs once more. [The Beat]

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Chain Reactions | Fairest #1

Fairest #1

The latest member of the Fables family came into the world last Wednesday, as Fairest #1 by Bill Willingham, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Andrew Dalhouse and Todd Klein. The book promises to explore “the secret histories of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, Snow White, Rose Red and others.” The first story arc picks up where Fables #107 left off, as it focuses on Briar Rose/Sleeping Beauty after she is stolen away by the goblin army.

So what do people think of this latest spinoff of the popular and long-running Fables franchise? Here’s a round-up of a few reviews …

Alex Zalben, MTV Geek: “By gobsmacking, of course, I’m referring to the plot of the issue: a thief we haven’t seen in a good long while picks up a jar we may have forgotten about, and sets in search of a lady or two who have been trapped by goblins. Much smacking of said gobs ensues… Though mostly by one of the most bad-ass wooden puppets you might ever hope to meet. And all of this involves characters or ideas that have been seeded throughout Fables the past few years, but one of the beauties of the book (beyond, you know, Sleeping Beauty) is that Willingham provides easy entry for even the newest reader.”

Don MacPherson, Eye on Comics: “There’s no denying this is a Fables spinoff. One has to be familiar with a fair bit of continuity from the mother title to figure out where the characters are in this story and what their deal is (especially Oakheart). I haven’t read Fables in a while, but fortunately, what I remember from before I stopped following the book was enough to pick up on the appropriate and required references here. Of course, not everyone will be privy to the same backstory from Fables. Of course, one could argue DC expects only Fables readers to pick up Fairest, but limiting one’s expected readership to an audience within an established audience seems like it would be setting the bar far too low. Willingham’s script really could’ve used more exposition.”

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Bill Willingham and Adam Hughes launch Fairest in Minnesota

We don’t cover a lot of store signings, but this seems like kind of a big deal for a couple of reasons. Bill Willingham and Adam Hughes are kicking off the hotly anticipated Fairest series with a launch party/signing at The Source Comics and Games in Falcon Heights, Minnesota (a suburb of Saint Paul) on Wednesday, March 7.

Coming at a time when many readers are looking for comics that feature great female characters, Fairest focuses on the fairy tale women of Bill Willingham’s Fables. Willingham is writing the book; Hughes provides the covers.

Frosty first look at Adam Hughes’ cover for Fairest #3

Adam Hughes has revealed his cover for the third issue of Fairest, Vertigo’s upcoming Fables spinoff series that will spotlight such female characters as Thumbelina, Rapunzel, Snow White and Rose Red. While the six-issue initial arc, by Fables creator Bill Willingham and artists Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning, centers on Briar Rose, Hughes puts Lumi, the Snow Queen (previously seen in the background of his cover for Fairest #1) front and center.

Check out the full image below. Fairest debuts from Vertigo in March; the third issue arrives in May.

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Food or Comics? | A dollop of Defenders

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.

Action Comics #4

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start with Image’s new anthology Thought Bubble Anthology #1 (Image, $2.99). That Becky Cloonan cover is great, and seeing that the book holds new shorts from Andy Diggle, Duncan Fegredo and others is enticing. Next up would be a DC three-pack: Swamp Thing #4 (DC, $2.99), Animal Man #4 (DC, $2.99), Action Comics #4 (DC, $3.99). DC really wins this week when it comes to my wallet, and these three books are becoming the key titles in the New 52.

If I had $30, I’d try out Matt Fraction and Terry Dodson’s Defenders #1 (Marvel, $3.99). While I was nonplussed by their previous collaboration in Uncanny X-Men, I remain high on other segments of their work and hope this one lives up to that potential. Next up would be X-Club #1 (Marvel, $2.99), based solely on this eclectic line-up. The X-Club was one of the few parts of the previously mentioned Fraction run on Uncanny X-Men I enjoyed, and I hope this mini makes them a more viable part of the universe long-term. Next up I’d get iZombie #20 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99) for the ongoing adventures of Roberson and Allred and Irredeemable #32. I’m really enjoying what Diego Barreto brings to the book, and Mark Waid continues to deliver.

If I could splurge, I’d get IDW’s collection of Mike Grell’s Shaman’s Tears maxi-series. This was one of the early Image titles, and gave me my first glimpse of Grell’s work and the potential for Image outside the original 7. As the series went on I ended up going back to track down Grell’s earlier work, but Shaman’s Tears holds a special place and I’m anxious to relive it without dusting off my longboxes.

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Comics A.M. | Comics market on the verge of a turnaround?

Action Comics #1

Comics | ICv2’s latest report on the comics market shows a mixed picture for monthly comics and graphic novels. While DC’s New 52 reboot has helped push comics sales, the graphic-novel versions of those comics won’t be out for months — and Amazon is gobbling up a larger and larger share of graphic novel sales, especially at the high end. And this is interesting: “Digital sales are growing as a percentage of the market, but apparently not at the expense of print sales. Retailers interviewed by ICv2 do not feel they’re losing sales to digital competition on DC’s day and date titles.” That seems to be more anecdote than data, but you would think retailers would be the first to notice a drop in sales. The report also includes lists of the top 10 properties in various categories. [ICv2]

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Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland postponed until Sept. 2012

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland

Bill Willingham’s Fables original graphic novel Werewolves of the Heartland, originally set to debut this fall, has been officially postponed until Sept. 5, 2012, Vertigo revealed this morning. No reason was given for the delay.

Announced in 2009 at Comic-Con International, the graphic novel follows Bigby Wolf as he searches the Midwest for a new location for Fabletown: “In his wanderings, Bigby stumbles across a small town named Story City, that, amazingly enough, seems to be populated by werewolves. Who are they and where did they come from? They aren’t Fables, but they sure aren’t normal mundys. They seem to already know and revere Bigby, but at the same time they’ve captured and caged him – but why? Unravelling the many mysteries of Story City may cost Bigby more than his life.”

The 160-page book features interior art by Jim Fern, Craig Hamilton and Ray Snyder, and a cover by Daniel Dos Santos.

Fables #108 arrived in stores last week. The spinoff anthology Fairest premieres in early 2012.

SDCC ’11 | A roundup of Saturday’s announcements


Three down, one to go … here’s a list of the major comics-related announcements made at Comic-Con International in San Diego on Saturday:

• A number of new projects were announced or promoted at Image’s Creator-Owned Comics panel, not the least of which is the return of Brian K. Vaughan to comic books. Vaughan will write a book called Saga, which is co-created and drawn by Fiona Staples. Vaughan told CBR that the book is “an epic drama chronicling the life and times of one young family fighting to survive a never-ending war. 100 percent creator-owned. Ongoing. Monthly. Fiona and I are banking issues now.”

• Image also announced that Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman is collaborating with Charlie Adlard on a new series of graphic novels called Album. The books will be released roughly 18 months apart, 60 pages long, with different themes each year, with the first being Passenger. It’s co-published with Delcourt in France and will be available simultaneously in English and France.

• Jonathan Hickman and Nicky Pitarra will team up for The Manhattan Projects at Image. Hickman is also doing a book called Secret with artist Ryan Godenheim.

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