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Comics College | Charles Burns

Black Hole

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

This month we’re looking at the body of work from one of the medium’s masters of horror, Charles Burns.

Charles Burns’ X’ed Out sequel due in October

I was initially resistant to the idea of buying what are essentially hardcover, single issues of a comic book series, but Charles Burns’ X’ed Out ultimately wore me down. Though it was $20 for only 56 pages, that was trumped a little by the over-sized design and obvious Tintin influences, and a lot by the numerous recommendations from people I respect. I’m so glad I changed my mind.

One of the sucky things about the single-issue format (regardless of how handsomely it’s packaged) is waiting for the next issue and it’s been two years since X’ed Out. Fortunately, that wait is coming to a close this Oct. 9 with the release of The Hive. It’s $22 now and still only 56 pages, but the second volume of Burns’ untitled trilogy promises to be as unmissable as the first. The publisher describes it this way:

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Charles Burns’ next project revealed: Beer!

Every week here at Robot 6, our writers look the new comics in a feature playfully called “Food or Comics,” but with the new project from Charles Burns we may have to rename it “Beer or Comics.”

In a unique partnership with Elysian Brewing Company, Burns and Fantagraphics are planning a series of 12 beers released monthly next year featuring label artwork by the artist. Titled “Twelve Beers of the Apocalypse,” in reference to the purported end times some say the Mayan calendar foretells, these beers will feature “creativity and unusual ingredients.”

Kicking off the beer series is something called Nibiru, a Belgian-style Tripel  made with yerba mate, Belgian yeast, South American herbs and a mix of German, Czech and American hops. Sounds like something Volstagg would be proud of!

New beers will be released on the 21st of each month at select bars and bottle shops, such as Elysian’s three pubs and even Fantagraphics’ headquarters.

What Are You Reading?


Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly round-up of … well, what we’ve been reading lately.

Today our special guest is the legendary Gilbert Hernandez. Known best as the co-creator of Love & Rockets, his other works include Sloth, The Troublemakers, Chance in Hell and Yeah! with Peter Bagge (which is being collected by Fantagraphics)

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

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What Are You Reading?

Kill Shakespeare

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today’s special guests are Johnny Zito and Tony Trov, writers of Black Cherry Bombshells, Moon Girl, Lamorte Sisters and D.O.G.S. of Mars.

To see what Tony, Johnny and the Robot 6 crew are reading, click the link below.

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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs | X’ed Out

X'ed Out

X’ed Out
Written and Illustrated by Charles Burns
Pantheon; $19.95

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.

I’m sure I’ve used that quote before when talking about serialized comics. One nice thing about trade-waiting is that you tend to get complete stories and I’ve grown used to that. And like being used to it. To the point that when Pantheon sent me a copy of Charles Burns’ X’ed Out, I didn’t read it right away because I knew it was only the first chapter in a continuing saga. The instinct to hold off until it was done kicked in right away and I put it on my shelf unread. And then all the accolades started pouring out of my computer screen.

When Chris Mautner told me it was his favorite comic of the year, I finally caved. Chris and I don’t have exactly the same tastes, but they cross over enough that when I realized I had his #1 pick for 2010 just sitting there unread – and it’s pretty short – I figured I’d end the year with it. What could it hurt?

Little did I know. The bastards.

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What Are You Reading?


Happy holidays and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today’s special guest is Caanan Grall, creator of the webcomic Max Overacts and the Zuda strip Celadore.

To see what Caanan and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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Comics A.M. | Charges sought in retailer’s murder, more staff moves at DC


Crime | Police arrested and released two suspects in the murder of Kenneth McClure, the St. Louis retailer found shot to death on Tuesday. Prosecutors have asked for more evidence before deciding whether to file charges against the 25-year-old woman, who had reportedly worked at Legends Comics & Sports Cards and had been in a relationship with McClure, and a 32-year-old man, who is related to the mother of the 13-year-old girl who accused McClure of rape. [St. Louis Today]

Publishing | DC Comics announced three promotions in its manufacturing and operations departments: Alison Gill to senior vice president-manufacturing & operations; Nick Napolitano to vice president-manufacturing administration; and Jeff Boison to vice president-publishing operations. DC Publicity Manager Alex Segura also announced this morning that today is his last day at the company. [The Source, The Source]

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Comics A.M. | Detective Comics auction, comics prices and anti-piracy bill

Detective Comics #27

Comics | A copy of Detective Comics #27 bought for 10 cents by Robert Irwin in 1939 sold at auction Thursday for $492,937. It’s not a record price for the first appearance of Batman — a CGC-graded 8.0 copy fetched more than $1 million in February — but the $400,000 that the 84-year-old Irwin will make after the commission fee is subtracted will more than pay off the mortgage on his home. [Sacramento Bee]

Digital piracy | The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously approved a bill that would grant the Justice Department the right to shut down  a website with a court order “if copyright infringement is deemed ‘central to the activity’ of the site — regardless if the website has actually committed a crime.” In short, Wired’s Sam Gustin writes, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act “would allow the federal government to censor the internet without due process.” [Epicenter, AFP]

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Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival unveils artist-packed programming schedule

Programming Director Bill Kartalopoulos has released the programming schedule for the upcoming 2nd annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival, taking place on Saturday, Dec. 4 in Williamsburg, and it’s a doozy. Lynda Barry & Charles Burns and Françoise Mouly & Sammy Harkham will be paired off in panels that are perhaps the highlight of the show, while other spotlighted cartoonists include Golden Age artist Irwin Hasen (in conversation with Paul Pope, Evan Dorkin, and Dan Nadel) and Big Questions author Anders Nilsen, who drew the still-awesome poster you see above.

Check out the full schedule in the BCGF press release after the jump.

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Comics A.M. | The comics Internet in two minutes

Kai Yorihito Kaiyori Shiki, Vol. 2

Publishing | Japanese magazine publisher Enterbrain has pulled both volumes of Kazuaki’s manga Kai Yorihito Kaiyori Shiki because of the unauthorized use of licensed photographs. The editors and the creator have apologized to readers and the copyright holders. [Anime News Network]

Retailing | Erik Henriksen surveys Portland, Oregon-area retailers about the potential effects of digital comics on the direct market. “Digital has blown up at a time when print sales are falling due to high prices combined with an over-saturated market,” says Adam Healy of Cosmic Monkey Comics. “Digital comics are one of the few ways to bring in new readers and perhaps lure back old readers. The vast majority of the public is barely aware comics are still being made, and fewer still are willing to make a special trip to a comic book store to figure out what’s going on in the comic world. Digital sales potential is in the millions, whereas print comics sales’ ceiling currently is around 100,000. Digital is not a threat to print sales, mostly because they are so low already.” [The Portland Mercury]

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This is Charles Burns. This is Charles Burns on Tintin. Any questions?

Aboard the CBR mothership, Alex Dueben talks to Black Hole author Charles Burns about his new book X’ed Out, in stores this week from Pantheon. And by the sound of it, the book — the first in a trilogy — is thoroughly indebted to Belgian comics master Hergé’s timeless Tintin tales, from the cover to the coloring to the format itself:

There’s certainly a very strong Herge influence. If you just think of the Franco-Belgian style of creating comic albums in that format, the way those European make them which is the 64 pages, 48 pages. A hardbound albums with continuing characters. I was one of those rare kids of my generation who grew up reading Tintin and it had a very profound effect on me, so this is the way that I can kind of reflect on that and play with some of those ideas.


“Black Hole” was always conceived of as being a book that would be all collected together. I’m not conceiving of this as, “Here’s three books that will eventually be collected into one book.” When I get interviewed by the French and Belgian press, I won’t be answering this question, because it’s a different tradition. I’m kind of emulating that tradition by doing a series of books in this manner. For example, when I was doing a signing in Southern France, there was someone who came up to me and who explained that he was really hesitant to buy “Black Hole” for a long time because it just seemed too foreign to him, this idea of this big volume. He wasn’t used to that idea of the graphic novel format, whereas now, it’s really been assimilated over there and popular over there as well. Here, the questions I get asked are, “Gee, this seems like a really slender volume for a graphic novel.” It’s not trying to pass itself off as a big graphic novel. It’s a different style of storytelling.

Unfortunately, Hergé passed away before he could ever release a graphic album in which he processed the influence of Charles Burns. Too bad — I would have liked to have seen Captain Haddock grow a small but strangely erotic vestigial tail.

What Are You Reading?

Make Me a Woman

Make Me a Woman

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, where the Robot 6 crew talks about the books that made it off our “to read” piles and have moved on to greener pastures. This week our special guest is J. Caleb Mozzocco, who blogs regularly at Blog@Newsarama and on his personal blog Every Day Is Like Wednesday.

To see what Caleb and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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Themed sketchbooks: Rico Renzi’s Mr. T sketchbook

Mr. T by Chris Sprouse

From Timely to Hepburn to Zatanna, Robot 6 now turns its gaze for its week-long themed sketchbook spotlight into the visage of star of screen, TV and sometimes even comics: Mr. T.

These sketches were accumulated by longtime comics fan Rico Renzi.

“I’ve been a comic convention-going-sketch-addict since I got my first Brian Stelfreeze Batgirl at Heroes Con in 1997,” Renzi says. “I started my Mr. T sketchbook at a local comic show, the Small Press Expo, in 2000, I think. While it’s cool to see independent comic artists’ take on your favorite superhero, at the time I was losing interest in those kinds of comics. Mr. T see seemed like someone who although he was a real person, was a cartoonish enough that he could be drawn quickly by pretty much anyone without reference.”

“It’s been a blast to see what people think of when they hear his name,” says Rico. “My first book is completely full, I’ve been thinking of starting a second volume. I miss getting Mr. T sketches!”

To see Renzi’s collection so far, he’s set up a blog at

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What Are You Reading?

X'ed Out

X'ed Out

As the final days of summer start to waste away and you’re looking for something to enjoy before hitting the books for school, there’s no better place to find some good stuff to read than right here in our weekly What Are You Reading? column.This week our guest is journalist/blogger Heidi MacDonald, of The Beat and Publishers Weekly fame.

To see what Heidi and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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