Brian Fies Archives - Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources

Revisiting Fleischer Studios’ monumental ‘Mechanical Monsters’

superman-mechanical monsters

I recently had the pleasure of rewatching The Mechanical Monsters, the 1941 animated Superman short from Fleischer Studios. I viewed it once before in the early ’90s on a cheap video tape that virtually disintegrated after just three uses. However, we’re in the new millennium now, and thanks to the dual magic of public domain and YouTube, the Fleischer cartoons are easily accessible for free in the comfort of your own home.

Do remember the “Beware the Gray Ghost” episode of Batman: The Animated Series? Bruce Wayne watches an old serial starring his childhood hero Simon Trent (voiced, in a stroke of genius, by none other than Adam West).  He’s suddenly transformed into a little kid again, with all the cynicism of adulthood melting away. That was me watching the Fleischer Superman cartoons. I’d searched for these videos for analytical purposes, but instead I walked away with words like “Wow!” and “Gee whiz!” popping into my head.

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‘The Last Mechanical Monster’: No country for old villains

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 12.59.20 AMVirtually every year, there’s a high-concept Eisner nominee that utterly baffles me. In 2009, it was Speak No Evil, the undocumented-immigrant parable where a guy has a hole for a mouth, and last year, it was the weird Ant Comic. This year, it’s probably going to be Brian Fies’ The Last Mechanical Monster.

It’s based on Fleischer Studios’ 1941 animated Superman short “The Mechanical Monsters,” probably best known as the first time, in any medium, Clark Kent stepped into a phone booth to change clothes. The first few pages of Fies’ comic look like screen shots of the original cartoon. After that intro, the the story picks up 60-plus years later. We’re already in some strange territory: a fan fiction is now in Eisner Award consideration. Only … this isn’t fan fiction about Superman or Lois Lane; it’s about the villain.

We’re also informed that “The Mechanical Monsters” is in the public domain (a factoid that took me back to when I first watched the cartoon, on a VHS purchased for cheap at Woolworths that stopped functioning after two viewings). That gives the comic an added layer of trickiness, but maybe this is as legit an adaptation as, say, CBS’s Elementary.

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Comics A.M. | Bill Watterson’s return to the public eye

From the final "Calvin and Hobbes" strip

From the final “Calvin and Hobbes” strip

Creators | Shaenon Garrity chronicles Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson’s recent return to the public eye. While Watterson stopped drawing the strip in 1995, he recently provided a painting for the Team Cul De Sac charity, did an interview and created a poster for the documentary Stripped, and contributed as a guest artist to Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine comic strip. [Paste Magazine]

Comics | Some bonus Calvin and Hobbes content: Adam Weinstein looks at the history of those “peeing Calvin” decals, with a short road trip into the “praying Calvin” variant. [Gawker]

Creators | Marc Sobel interviews Ganges creator Kevin Huizenga. [The Comics Journal]

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Comics A.M. | Cartoonist Jeff Pert passes away at age 55

jeff pert

Jeff Pert

Passings | Maine cartoonist Jeff Pert, best known for his cartoons and illustrations of lobsters and moose, died Friday on his way to the hospital with chest pains. He was 55. His cartoons adorned souvenir postcards and coffee cups, but he was also an active part of the local comics community in Brunswick, Maine, a regular at Casablanca Comics, and a participant in the Maine Comic Arts Festival. Pert created his first comic when he was in fifth grade and sold copies to local comic shops. “They probably gave us the money and then threw them in the garbage, but we were happy,” said his collaborator (and best friend) Jon Dumont. Pert was known for supporting other artists and even persuaded his local state representative, Maggie Daughtry, to start drawing her own comics: Daughtry knocked on Pert’s door when she was campaigning for office, and, she said, “Within an hour of meeting him, he literally changed my life.” When Daughtry told Pert that she had dreamed of being a cartoonist as a child, he encouraged her to start drawing again, which she did. [Portland Press Herald]

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Food or Comics? | Sage or Saga

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.

Saga #6

Chris Arrant 

If I had $15, I’d first double-down on creator-owned comics with Butcher Baker, Righteous Maker #8 (Image, $2.99) and Saga #6 (Image, $2.99). I’m glad to see Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston back on Butcher Baker after a hiatus in which I feared it was no more, and I’ve just pulled out #1-7 to get me back up to speed. I’m thinking that taking hallucinogenics would make me enjoy this comic more. On the other side, Saga #6 is flat-out amazing in the most conventional way (despite the unconventional setting). Aliens, ghosts and babies, and yet Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples bring it all together. At this point I’ve shifted into the The Walking Dead mode of reading – no point in reading about what’s ahead, as I’ll just buy it blindly on the great comics they’ve done so far. After that creator-owned two-fer, I’d give Marvel the rest of my money with Uncanny X-Force #29 (Marvel, $3.99) and Avengers vs. X-Men #10 (Marvel, $3.99). I think Marvel’s finally found a suitable replacement for Jerome Opena in artist Julian Totino Tedesco, and I hope he’s locked in to finish out this arc. And speaking of Rick Remender’s work, I spent about 15 minutes conversing the other day about how and why he should’ve been enlisted into Marvel’s Architects and worked into Avengers Vs. X-Men. While the group-written approach takes some getting used to, I’d love to see Remender do an issue of this. In Avengers Vs. X-Men #10 (Marvel, $3.99) however, we see Ed Brubaker taking the lead and showing the Phoenix Force Five venturing into K’un L’un for what seems like the Empire Strikes Back moment of the series.

If I had $30, I’d turn back in all my $15 purchases except Saga #6 and spend the recouped $25-plus dollars and get Hulk: Season One HC (Marvel, $24.99). I’ve never been the biggest Hulk fan, but seeing the previews of Tom Fowler’s art on this has won me over. Fowler, like the above mentioned Tedesco, is one of Marvel’s hidden gems and this might be the launching pad for him to (finally) get some recognition. And for me to get some good comics. Fowler SMASH!

If I could splurge, I’d do the boring choice and simply use it to buy all the single issues mentioned in the $15 section and be able to also afford Hulk: Season One HC. Easy, breezy, beautiful, comics boy.

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Comics A.M. | Hero Initiative, Kirby Museum report Avengers donations

The Avengers #1

Organizations | Tom Spurgeon reports that The Hero Initiative has now received close to $3,000 so far due to campaigns asking those people who watch Marvel’s The Avengers to donate money to the organization. The Jack Kirby Museum, meanwhile, reports it has received $1,300 from Avengers-related giving. [The Comics Reporter, The Kirby Museum]

Conventions | Chris Butcher, co-founder and director of the Toronto Comics Art Festival, reports that about 18,000 people attended this year’s TCAF-related events: “TCAF 2012 was the most ambitious festival yet, and my most ambitious personal undertaking. With more off-site and lead-up events than ever before, more partnerships than in previous years, an additional day of programming, and more than 20 featured guests, I worried in the weeks leading up to the show that perhaps we’d bit off a bit more than we could chew. Luckily through the talent and support of some wonderful folks we had varying levels of success on every front, and as always, lessons were learned and we think 2013 will be even stronger.” [Comics212]

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Creators, fans and friends remember Gene Colan

Gene Colan at WonderCon 2007 (photo by Chip Mosher)

As CBR reported last night, comics creator and Eisner winner Gene Colan passed away at the age of 84 last night.

“The legacy of his artistic storytelling and abilities played a key role in cementing the enduring popularity of characters like Daredevil, Iron Man, Howard the Duck, Blade and Dr. Strange, and garnered him praise and fans the world over,” columnist George Khoury said in an obituary on Comic Book Resources this morning.

In lieu of flowers, Colan’s friend Clifford Meth is asking folks to contribute to a scholarship being set up in Colan’s name for The Kubert School. Details on how to donate can be found on Meth’s blog.

Fellow creators, fans and friends of Gene Colan are sharing memories. Here are a few; as always, click through to see the entirety of what they have to say about one of comics’ legendary artists:

Clifford Meth: “I knew this day would come but it came too quickly. It’s been a rare pleasure working with Gene. He knew who he was—how valuable his contributions to the world of comic art have been—how prized it remains by so many. Yet he never felt less than grateful to anyone who’d even read a single panel that he’d drawn. Until he was too weak to hold a pencil, he put his whole kishkes into everything he drew—whether it was a $5000 commission or a small drawing for someone’s child. And he was never satisfied with his artwork but always eager to learn a little more, do a little better, try something new. At 84.”

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Skyhorse to publish Tangles graphic novel

Friday’s New York Times had a fascinating article by James Warren about Comics & Medicine: The Sequential Art of Illness, a conference that was held this past week at Northwestern University in Chicago. The article mentioned a number of comics and graphic novels that deal with medical issues, including slice-of-life stories of working in the medical field, instructional manuals, and accounts of living with an illness. One of the latter that caught my eye was Sarah Leavitt’s Tangles, which deals with her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease—a story that is all too familiar to readers of my generation (including myself). The graphic novel was published in Canada, but later on Friday, Skyhorse Publishing announced via Twitter that they will be publishing it in the U.S. as well. Skyhorse is an independent book publisher with a wide repertoire, from the looks of their website, and they are distributed by W.W. Norton (which also distributes Fantagraphics books), so Tangles should be easy to find when it is published.

For more on the conference, which included guest appearances by Scott McCloud, Phoebe Gloeckner, David Small, and Paul Gravett, check out the blog of Mom’s Cancer creator Brian Fies, as well as Publishers Weekly’s writeup.

Gift suggestions for every taste | Vintage X-Men game, Brown’s cat cards

Wolverine by Dan Panosian

Brigid did a round-up yesterday of various holiday gift-giving suggestions, so I thought I’d follow suit with some that I’ve seen lately.

• The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is auctioning off original art by Paul Pope, Eric Powell, Gabriel Hardman, Tom Fowler, Dan Paosian and many more, as well as lunch with Chew writer John Layman in New York next week.

• I remember shoveling a whole bunch of quarters into the X-Men arcade game back in the day; my friend Mike and I beat the game as Nightcrawler and Wolverine. If you have an Xbox fan in your life, they too can fight the Blob, Magneto and more in side-scrolling action, as the game will be available on Xbox Live Arcade Dec. 15. The PlayStation Network, unfortunately, won’t get it until February, so you’ll have to find something else this holiday season for the PS3 fan in your life. Joy to the world! The game will hit the PlayStation Network Dec. 14!

• Khepri Comics is selling Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon’s Atelier, a comic they created to sell at conventions.

• Comics creator Ben Towle has a 20 percent off sale going in his web store, where you can purchase original art from books like Midnight Sun, signed copies of Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean and superhero commissions.

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Calling comics for a consult

Brian Fies draws his mom during chemo

Brian Fies draws his mom during chemo

Cian O’Luanaigh has penned a fascinating piece for The Guardian about medicine in comics. This isn’t just a survey of comics about diseases and healers (although there is some of that) but also an account of how medical professionals use comics to describe their experiences and raise consciousness among students. Like hospice care nurse MK Czerwiec:

Czerwiec has encouraged medical students to follow her lead and reflect on their experiences through comics. “We did an exercise in which we asked students to draw a diagnosis as if they were a patient receiving it, and we also asked them to draw a different diagnosis as if they were a doctor giving it,” said Czerwiec. “When they drew diagnoses as a doctor, they drew disembodied body parts, but when they drew as a patient they drew embodied experiences of illness, with reference to an emotional reaction and to their whole families and lives.”

Examples cited range from Rex Morgan, MD, to Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary, and the story is copiously illustrated with panels from Brian Fies’s Mom’s Cancer that describe chemotherapy in both scientific and personal terms.


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