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Comics A.M. | ‘Beetle Bailey’ creator Mort Walker turns 90

Beetle Bailey

Beetle Bailey

Creators | Beetle Bailey creator Mort Walker received messages from the likes of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dolly Parton and Prince Albert II of Monaco ahead of his 90th birthday today. The cartoonist, who introduced Beetle Bailey in 1950, still supervises daily work on the strip at his Stamford, Connecticut, studio. [The Associated Press]

Creators | Gene Luen Yang discusses his newest work, Boxers and Saints, a 500-page, two-volume set that examines China’s Boxer Rebellion through the eyes of two very different characters. [Graphic Novel Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Market shrinks for Australian comic strips

Ginger Meggs

Ginger Meggs

Comics strips | Matt Saracini looks at the impact on Australian cartoonists of a cost-cutting decision by media giant News Corp. Australia to replace individual comics pages in their largest newspapers with one national page. In the process, some more expensive locally produced strips were jettisoned in favor for cheaper syndicated ones from overseas, like Garfield and The Phantom. News Corp. owns more than a hundred daily, weekly, biweekly and triweekly newspapers. [SBS.com]

Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, now living in Kuwait after troops loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attacked him and broke both his hands, talks about his decision to portray al-Assad explicitly in his cartoons, rather than sticking to more generic themes like freedom and human rights: “It was a big decision to start to draw Bashar and, yes, I was scared of what might happen, particularly when I was attacked. But I had a responsibility to do what I did. If I am not prepared to take risks I have no right to call myself an artist. If there is no mission or message to my work I might as well be a painter and decorator.” [The Guardian]

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Comics A.M. | Archie alters story arc over Russia’s anti-gay laws

Kevin Keller's first kiss

Kevin Keller’s first kiss

Publishing | The Archie gang has canceled a (fictional) trip to Russia because of that country’s draconian anti-gay laws. One law would allow the arrest of foreigners suspected of being gay or “pro-gay,” while another defines any pro-gay statement as pornography and therefore makes it a criminal act to make such statements in front of anyone under the age of 18. Archie cartoonist Dan Parent, who created Riverdale’s first openly gay character, Kevin Keller, is taking a stand in his own way: “Russia should be boycotted, so much so that actually in an upcoming special four-issue story arc I’m writing the Archie gang are going to take a world tour to four countries. Russia was to be one of them. But they’re not going there now. They just can’t and they won’t. They love and support Kevin.” [Back2Stonewall]

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Comics A.M. | Muslim leader regrets condemning Muhammad cartoons

Jyllands-Posten

Jyllands-Posten

Editorial cartoons | Ahmad Akkari, one of the leaders of the protests in 2006 against the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, now says he regrets his activities and has even apologized in person to one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard. “I want to be clear today about the trip: It was totally wrong,” Akkari said in an interview with The Associated Press. “At that time, I was so fascinated with this logical force in the Islamic mindset that I could not see the greater picture. I was convinced it was a fight for my faith, Islam.” [The Guardian]

Passings | The body of Ramen Fighter Miki creator Jun Sadogawa (real name Mutsumi Kawato) was discovered early Tuesday hanging from a tree in a park in Ibaraki Prefecture’s Kitasōma District. According to police, evidence at the scene suggested suicide. The 34-year-old manga creator had been serializing Amane Atatameru in Weekly Shonen Champion magazine at the time of his death. [Anime News Network]

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Comics A.M. | Bors on working for free; ‘king of creator-owned comics’?

Matt Bors

Matt Bors

Creators | Editorial cartoonist Matt Bors talks about his life in a tough field, comics journalism and people who want him to work for free: “No one would hold a ‘contest’ for chefs to all prepare food and then only offer pay to the ‘winner’ whose meal they like best … If you want to draw your friend’s wedding invitation for free, I say go for it. If someone is making money from your work, they can afford to pay you.” [Truthout]

Creators | Brian K. Vaughan is crowned “king of the creator-owned comics” by Alex Hern, who acknowledges that may be an “artificially constrained” compliment before laying out the writer’s claim to the title. [New Statesman]

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‘Dear Mr. Watterson’ documentary to arrive in theaters Nov. 15

dear mr wattersonGravitas Ventures has acquired the North America distribution rights to Dear Mr. Watterson, the Kickstarter-funded documentary that explores the influence of cartoonist Bill Watterson and his beloved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes. It will be premiere in theaters on Nov. 15.

“Mr. Watterson has inspired and influenced millions of people through Calvin & Hobbes,” the documentary’s website explains. “Newspaper readership and book sales can be tracked and recorded, but the human impact he has had and the value of his art are perhaps impossible to measure. This film is not a quest to find Bill Watterson, or to invade his privacy. It is an exploration to discover why his ‘simple’ comic strip made such an impact on so many readers in the 80s and 90s, and why it still means so much to us today.”

The documentary began in 2007 as a passion project for director Joel Allen Schroeder, who turned to Kickstarter in 2010 to raise $25,000 to enable him, producers Christopher Browne and Matt McUsic, and cinematographer Andrew P. Waruszewski to film interviews with cartoonists Bill Amend, Berkley Breathed, Keith Knight, Stephan Pastis and Dan Piraro, Charles Schulz’s widow Jean Schulz, Watterson’s editor Lee Salem and others. They then returned to Kickstarter last year, where they generated another $96,772 in pledges.  Dear Mr. Watterson had its festival premiere in April at the Cleveland International Fan Festival.

According to Deadline, Gravitas and Submarine Deluxe will make the documentary available On Demand the same day as its theatrical debut.

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Comics A.M. | ‘Pickles’ creator on rejection and success

Pickles

Pickles

Creators | Pickles creator Brian Crane, who was recently named Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year by the National Cartoonist Society, talks about how he was ready to give up on his dream of being a cartoonist after his pitches were rejected by three syndicates, but his wife wanted him to keep going: “To prove her wrong, I sent it to The Washington Post Writers Group. She proved to be right. Since then, I’ve learned: She’s almost never wrong.” [Comic Riffs]

Comics | Chicago City Council recently passed an ordinance, which takes effect in July, regarding wage theft, and Interfaith Worker Justice, a Chicago organization, has put together a 32-page comic explaining workers’ legal rights and what recourse they have if their employers illegally withhold their wages. [Crain's Chicago Business]

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Alternative weekly Boston Phoenix closes after 47 years

The final Boston Phoenix

The final Boston Phoenix

The Boston Phoenix, the groundbreaking alternative weekly that in recent years had carried the work of cartoonists ranging from Matt Bors and David Sipress to Karl Stevens and Brian McFadden, has closed after nearly five decades.

The announcement was accompanied Thursday afternoon by a tweet saying, “Thank you Boston. Good night and good luck.” The current issue, dated March 15, will be the last; a final online edition will appear March 22. Executive Editor Peter Kadzis told The Boston Globe that about 40 employees will be let go within the week with another 10 following soon afterward. There will be no severance pay.

In a statement circulated Thursday to staff members and reposted on the Phoenix’s website, Publisher Stephen M. Mindich attributed the closing to a combination of the economic crisis, changes in the media industry and a decline in advertising. Just six months ago the company changed to a magazine format in an effort to attract more advertisers.

“We are a textbook example of sweeping marketplace change,” Kadzis said in a statement. “Our recent switch to a magazine format met with applause from readers and local advertisers. Not so — with a few exceptions — national advertisers. It was the long-term decline of national advertising dollars that made the Boston Phoenix economically unviable.”

Its sister publications The Portland Phoenix in Maine and The Providence Phoenix in Rhode Island, will remain open.

Comics A.M. | Tom Tomorrow wins Herblock Prize

This Modern World

This Modern World

Awards | Dan Perkins, better known to his readers as Tom Tomorrow, is the winner of this year’s Herblock Prize for excellence in editorial cartooning. Panelist Matt Bors cited his “consistently hilarious takedowns of women-bashers, gun culture and the president’s abuse of executive power.” The finalist was Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman. The award includes cash prizes of $15,000 (after taxes!) for the winner and $5,000 for the finalist. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Publishing | Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson explains how the company develops licensed properties, specifically “expanded universes” that build on the world of a movie or video game: “So we came up with the idea that we could approach these licensed properties as sequels, particularly in the early days when we focused primarily on film. We’d sit down like fanboys and say ‘Okay, that was great, what can we do next?'” [Forbes]

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Israel arrests Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh

Saba'anehPalestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh, a contributor to the Cartoon Movement comics journalism site, was arrested by Israeli authorities on Saturday and is being held without access to a lawyer, a situation that could continue indefinitely. The Cartoon Movement blog has been tracking the story as well as the reaction by international organizations.

Saba’aneh is a political cartoonist for Al-Hayat al-Jadida, the official newspaper of the Palestinian National Authority, the governing body for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and his cartoons comment on the political and human rights situation of the region, often criticizing the Israeli detention of Palestinians. He also works in the public relations department of the Arab American University. He visited the United States in 2010 as a participant in the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

On Thursday, an Israeli military court extended Saba’aneh’s detention for nine days, and further extensions are possible. According to the International Council for Human Rights, “The Israeli security forces refuse to disclose any details on Mohammed Sabaana’s whereabouts and further deny to grant access to his lawyer or his family members. He is also at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment.”

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Reuben finalists announced; Russ Manning nominees sought

Pearls Before Swine

Pearls Before Swine

Awards | Brian Crane (Pickles), Rick Kirkman (Baby Blues) and Stephan Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) have been nominated for the 2012 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year, presented by the National Cartoonists Society. [National Cartoonists Society]

Awards | Nominations are being sought for the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award, which will be presented July 19 at Comic-Con International during the Eisner Awards ceremony. The deadline is April 5. [Comic-Con International]

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Disney’s not-so-secret shame

“[T]hey broke my spirit,” Don Rosa wrote in an epilogue to his autobiography in comics, explaining why he retired from the job he so dearly loved. The whole tale is heart-breaking but also beautiful in the cartoonist’s abundant gratitude and humility.

“They” of course are Disney and its publishing licensees who don’t pay their comics talent any royalties whatsoever despite the incredibly healthy exporting of Disney comic books around the world. Rosa created Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics for almost 20 years and only ever received a flat page rate, as though it were the 1940s. His rate was better than other Disney comics artists at the time because he was so popular, but his wife was still the primary provider for the family. She was a school teacher, a profession not typically known for financial excess.

Whenever I hear about these kinds of stories, I always wonder why the creator doesn’t turn to creator-owned comics, which allow freedom on many levels, and a greater potential for financial benefit. The Walking Dead, anyone? Rosa, the internationally beloved cartoonist, doing his own comic book series or graphic novel would be an event. It seems like a no-brainer. But it’s easy to forget that for some creators, despite the opportunities, that option is a non-starter.

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Penny Arcade’s reality game show Strip Search prepares for launch

We warned you about this a few weeks ago: Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the duo behind the ultra-popular webcomic series Penny Arcade, are looking to cultivate the next generation of comic artists with a web TV series titled Strip Search.

It’s a reality competition series in which 12 aspiring webcartoonists are locked in a house and pitted against each other in a Thunderdome-like scenario (minus a mohawked Tina Turner) in which their talent, skills and dedication are tested with the ultimate prize of $15,000 in cash and a year working in Penny Arcade‘s offices and taking advantage of the company’s resources. Even the break room.

The show is set to premiere later this month, with the cast members cartoonists already announced. As we await the first episode, scan through the artists’ bios and choose your early favorites.

The legendary Don Rosa explains why he quit comics

Don Rosa, who drew Disney’s Scrooge McDuck and Donald Duck comics for many years has written a lengthy and fascinating piece on why he gave up creating comics.

Rosa, who started working on the series in early middle age, gave up making comics entirely in 2012 for a variety of reasons, including vision problems caused by a detached retina, depression, and frustration that the studio pays no royalties on his comics — a situation that he says is unique to the comics, as other Disney creators do get royalties. (One possible reason for this is that the Disney comics are produced by freelancers working for third-party companies, not for Disney itself.) That became particularly galling once Rosa was well enough known that the collections featured his name in the title — but he still didn’t see a dime. His response was a clever one: He copyrighted his name so publishers would have to ask his permission to use it to promote the books.

Rosa also explains why he didn’t make the switch to creator-owned comics:

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14 cartoonists make NRA’s ‘anti-gun’ list

This might be why Mike Luckovich made the list

I don’t know, maybe lists like the widely reported rundown of “National Organizations with Anti-Gun Policies” on the website of the Institute for Legislative Action — the lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association — are common, but just seldom made public. It seems rather Nixonian, to be honest. Who keeps an enemies list any more?

The list includes not only organizations but companies and individuals who have in some way publicly endorsed gun regulation, whether as a member of the Brady Campaign or just chattin’. And 14 editorial cartoonists make the cut. Alan Gardner helpfully pulls them out: Tony Auth, Steve Benson, Jim Borgman, Stuart Carlson, Mike Lane, Mike Luckovich, Jimmy Margulies, Jim Morin, Mike Peters, Kevin Siers, Ed Stein, Tim Toles, Garry Trudeau and Don Wright.

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