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Comics A.M. | ‘MAD Magazine’ artist Bob Clarke passes away

Illustration by Bob Clarke

Illustration by Bob Clarke

Passings | Bob Clarke, one of the original artists for MAD Magazine, passed away Sunday of complications from pneumonia. He was 87. Best known for his “Believe It or NUTS!” parodies, Clarke actually began his career at age 15 as an uncredited assistant on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic strip before joining the Army, where he worked for Stars and Stripes. At MAD, he also drew “Spy vs. Spy” for many years, and illustrated the famed January 1961 back cover congratulating John F. Kennedy on his election (the front featured Richard Nixon; the editors were hedging their bets). [The News Journal]

Creators | Charles Soule talks about taking the reins of DC Comics’ Swamp Thing: “Swamp Thing isn’t just a horror book by any means — it’s also a book about superhero action and philosophy and humor. This is a title that’s open to just about anything.” Soule’s plans include new supporting characters and short story arcs that build up to a bigger structure. [USA Today]

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WonderCon ’13 | A round-up of news from Friday

Earth-2 Batman

Earth-2 Batman

WonderCon Anaheim 2013 kicked off yesterday at the Anaheim Convention Center, with badges for Friday selling out at some point during the day. Saturday and three-day badges already sold out, so it looks like just Sunday is left if you were hoping to attend but didn’t purchase your badge in advance.

There weren’t a lot of announcements coming out of the show yesterday, and in fact I’m not completely sure what could be considered “WonderCon news” and what was just, um, news, but here’s a round-up of stuff you may have missed from Friday:

• 2014 will bring a crossover between DC’s two Earths, according to Earth 2 writer James Robinson. “If I’m talking about a big event that’s happening in 2014, it’s all these characters meeting each other,” said Robinson, citing Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Justice Society during his spotlight panel in Anaheim. Robinson also said his goal was to make sure the writers involved in the event were invested in the story, and described himself as “the point guy” when it comes to the event, saying that Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio are also very involved. Earth 2 is also getting its own Batman, and the book will also feature the introductions of Starman (Ted Knight), Red Arrow (Earth 2′s version of Green Arrow), Hourman, Wildcat, Mister Miracle and Big Barda in the future.

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ECCC | Soule, Alburquerque head to space for ‘Letter 44′

LETTER44-tease

At their RevolutiONIze panel at the Emerald City Comicon today, Oni Press announced a new science fiction series, Letter 44, by Charles Soule (Swamp Thing, Strongman, Strange Attractors) and Alberto Alburquerque (Elle, Skullkickers).

“Letter 44 is a new sci-fi series that asks, ‘How would people act when faced with a true threat?’ It begins with the newly inaugurated President Blades sitting down in the Oval Office, reading the letter left to him by the outgoing president. That letter is simply addressed to ’44,’” Oni Press’s Editor-in-Chief James Lucas Jones, said in a press release.

“The contents of that letter? Seven years ago NASA discovered some sort of construction project out in the asteroid belt. No one on Earth knows what it is, and the outgoing President sent astronauts up there to investigate. As the story opens, they’re about six months away,” Soule said. “This is a story I’ve been working on for several years, and I’m very excited to see it come to fruition. Alberto’s very conscious of the technical details of the spacecraft and other sci-fi elements, as well as the Earth-based stuff. His work is amazing, and I couldn’t be happier with the look of the book.”

Letter 44 goes on sale this October. Check out a page of art from it below.

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Looking Forward, Looking Back | Creators weigh in on 2012 and 2013 (Part 1)

Five Weapons

It’s become an annual tradition here during our birthday bash: No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of folks we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we’ve done in past years, we asked a cross-section of comics folks what they liked in 2012 and what they’re excited about for 2013. We received so many this year that we’ve broken it down into two posts; watch for another one Tuesday.

But for now, check out all the great stuff people shared with us, including hints at new projects and even some outright announcements. Our thanks to everyone this year who responded. Also, thanks to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.

JIMMIE ROBINSON (Bomb Queen, Five Weapons)

What was your favorite comic of 2012?

Image’s Saga, Fatale, Hawkeye‘s reinvention is fresh and exciting, Peter Panzerfaust, Enormous by Tim Daniel. It’s hard to pin down just one because there is SO much good work coming out nowadays — from many publishers across the board.

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What Are You Reading? with Aubrey Sitterson and Charles Soule

The Massive #1

Happy Father’s Day and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where each week we talk about what comics and other stuff have been on our reading piles. Today’s guests are two of the contributors to Skullkickers #18, which features several “Tavern Tales” short stories by different creative teams. Joining us today are Charles Soule of 27, Strange Attractors and Strongman fame, and Aubrey Sitterson, winner of the Skullkickers Tavern Tales Contest. He’s also the writer of Gear Monkey for Double Feature Comics and community manager for WWE Games.

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

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What are you excited about for 2012?

[Note: this post was assembled by both Tim O'Shea and JK Parkin]

This is our final post for our big birthday bash, and what a post it is. No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of folks we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we have in past years, we have asked various comics folks what they are excited about for 2012 in comics–something they aren’t working on and something they are.

There’s a lot of great stuff here–hints at new projects and even some downright announcements. Our thanks to everyone this year who responded!

Jason Latour

Loose Ends 4

I’m most anticipating the 30th Anniversary of HEROES CON (June 22-24, Charlotte, NC) . For any convention 30 years is an amazing run, but the fact that Shelton Drum and his extended family have put this show together every year with nothing but blood, sweat and tears is flat out super heroic.

On the personal front, the challenging and exhilarating ride that’s been Loose Ends will come to a close with issue 4. It’ll be bittersweet to send our child off to into the real world but I can’t wait for you guys to see the work Brunner & Renzi are doing.

I’m also super excited to dip my own toes into the Mignola-verse with the BPRD: The Pickens County Horror [March 28, 2012] and to read the end of Jason Aaron & RM Guera’s Scalped, which is my favorite series in years.

Jason Latour is a writer/artist, most recently the writer of Loose Ends. He spoke with Tim O’Shea about the miniseries in July.

Patrick Zircher

This sounds politic, but it’s genuine: what excites me about comics in 2012 is what’s exciting every year, the work of the talent.  Seeing what the best are up to and how the up-n-comers have grown as artists and writers.  In the new year, I’m also excited about illustrating several books and covers that feature my favorite Avengers.

Patrick Zircher is an artist, who explored the 1920s/1930s era of the Marvel universe in 2011 with the five-issue miniseries, Mystery Men. He spoke with Tim O’Shea about the miniseries in May.

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Unwrapping comics: Pros share their holiday memories

A couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking about the holidays and comics. More exactly, I started wondering what some creators might say if i asked them for their favorite comics-related memory. As I got into contact with some creators, they did not have a favorite story per se, but those recollections were definitely memorable. Bottom line, these storytellers not surprisingly had some great stories to share. My holiday memory is an odd one, as a kid in the 1970s reading the Doonesbury comic strip where Rev. Scott Sloan had opening remarks before the Christmas pageant, where he noted that the part of the Baby Jesus would be played by a 40-watt light bulb. A lifelong Doonesbury fan, there are few strips that have made me laugh longer than that one. Told you it was an odd one.  Now on to the storytellers with far better tales. My thanks to everyone that responded. Once you’ve read them all, please be sure to chime in with your most memorable comics-related holiday recollection in the comments section.

Daryl Gregory

The Avengers #4 (Not the comic stuffed in 'Lil Daryl's stocking)

Every Christmas, comics would show up in my stocking. They’d be rolled up, which I’m sure breaks the heart of every collector out there, but it didn’t bother me much. Comics were for reading. For some reason, my mother thought I liked Thor. I wasn’t a Thor guy, except when he was hanging out in the Avengers. I was, and still am, a Captain America super-fan. How could my Mom not know this? But every year I’d get a couple more Thor comics.

Fast-forward 35 years. I’m the official stocking-stuffer in the household. My wife is the queen of holiday organization, but the stocking assignment has always been mine, primarily because it’s the kind of job you can give to a procrastinator. I can run out on Christmas Eve and grab everything I need: gum, iTunes gift cards, candy bars, extra batteries… and comics. See, my son is 15, and he IS a Thor guy, so I usually try to round up something Asgardian for him, as well as a something with Atomic Robo or Axe Cop. I don’t understand the clothing my daughter is asking for (an “infinity scarf” sounds like something Dr. Who would wear), but by gum, I do know my son’s taste in comics.

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Writer of music comic 27 belts out one-hit wonders for new series

After receiving exponential success with last year’s music series 27, creator/writer Charles Soule is stepped up promotion for the sequel 27: Second Set with a unique way of getting people’s attention: recording music. Although using music to promote comics isn’t new (see editor Nick Lowe’s song promoting Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.), Soule is taking the idea of the second series — one-hit wonders — and recording covers of several famous done-in-one pop singles. His first one, a cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” (Itself inspired by comics) is here:

Soule is good at both vocals and guitar, so the recordings (nine so far) are worth a listen. Check his blog for more.

And oh yeah, 27: Second Set #1 came out this past Wednesday.

Comics A.M. | Dragon*Con co-founder arrested; Michael George trial begins

Ed Kramer

Legal | Edward Kramer, co-founder of the 25-year-old Dragon*Con held each Labor Day in Atlanta, was arrested Tuesday and charged with misdemeanor reckless endangerment of a child after police allegedly found him in a Connecticut motel room with a 14-year-old boy. Kramer, who was first charged 11 years ago with child molestation and aggravated child molestation, never went to court after his lawyers argued that Kramer was physically incompetent to stand trial, due to a degenerative spinal condition and chronic pain. Kramer was under house arrest until 2008, when a judge ruled that he could travel, although conditions of his bond stipulated that he report his whereabouts on a weekly basis to the district attorney’s office and that he have no unsupervised contact with anyone under the age of 16. On Wednesday a judge signed an order revoking Kramer’s bond, and the district attorney said Kramer will be extradited back to Georgia.

Pat Henry, current chairman of Dragon*Con, posted a statement on the convention’s website: “Edward Kramer resigned from the Dragon Con Convention in the year 2000 after being indicted on felony charges in Gwinnett County. He has not had any role in Dragon Con planning or activities since that time. Since 2000 the convention has been managed by three of the other founders. These men have been involved with the convention since the beginning. They are chairman Pat Henry, and board members Dave Cody and Robert Dennis. In these eleven years the convention attendance has grown from less than 10,000 to over 46,000 this past Labor Day.” [Atlanta Journal Constitution]

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Food or Comics? | Vengeance, Flight, crossovers and more

Vengeance #1

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. We’re coming a little late today due to a power outage in my neck of the woods — due to a blackout, not because I spent the money for the electric bill on Flashpoint or Fear Itself tie-ins.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, my first pick off the shelf would be Vengeance #1 (Marvel, $3.99); I love Joe Casey, and especially when he’s given a long leash and room to play in a big universe. Seeing Nick Dragotta drawing this is an added bonus. Next up would be comics’ dueling summer blockbusters, Flashpoint #3 (DC, $3.99) and Fear Itself #4 (Marvel, $3.99). After that, I’d get the excellent Flashpoint: Batman, Knight of Vengeance #2 (DC, $2.99); when Azzarello is on the ball he’s great to read, and this seems to be that.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Charles Soule

27

During HeroesCon earlier this month, I ran into 27 writer Charles Soule. Being a big fan of music (and comics of course), I was ashamed to admit that I had not run across his series (which launched last year from Image/Shadowline), built upon the rock and roll legend about certain very brilliant musicians dying at the age of twenty-seven. With the trade paperback of the first four issues set to go on sale this Wednesday, Soule and I settled in for a quick email interview. I was intrigued to learn about Soule’s contest for readers. Also, we talk about e sure to read to the end of this interview for a mention of Vanilla Ice.

Tim O’Shea: While at the heart of the tale, the threat of death looms–and yet as you note in this November 2010 CBR interview 27‘s theme is “really creativity”. Can you talk about why you wanted to explore the concept of creativity partially through death?

Charles Soule: Jumping right into the heavy stuff, eh? Fine by me. The “hook” to 27 revolves around the many brilliant musicians and artists who have died at age twenty-seven – they’re known in rock and roll mythology as the “27 Club,” and the idea is that there’s some sort of curse that takes particularly talented individuals well before their time. In the 27 comic, Will Garland, a superstar guitar hero, turns twenty-seven and his life falls apart. His hand gets hit with a nerve disease that makes him unable to play, and all sorts of other terrible things start to occur that make him realize he’s been hit by the curse. From there, he has to try to beat the curse and live to see twenty-eight. Lots of supernatural craziness, lots of rock music lore, lots of thrills, chills and guitar fills.

But as you noted, that’s just the surface story – the carnival barker tease that gets people in the freakshow tent. The deeper theme is creativity; why do some people seem almost compelled to make art, and what does that cost them? Why are some amazing talents taken young, and, of course, is it better to burn out or fade away (to, er, re-coin a phrase)? These are big questions, and I thought they were worth exploring. Most people are creative to some extent, and the ‘why’ of it all is worth trying to unravel.

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Comics A.M. | Spider-Man musical producers ‘stepped in dog poo’

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, producers of the troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, talk candidly about the $70-million musical — or “$65 plus plus,” as Cohl says — as it shuts down for more than three weeks for a sweeping overhaul. Will the production, plagued by delays, technical mishaps, injuries and negative reviews, hurt their reputation? “It might,” Cohl concedes. “It’s a matter of the respect of those whose opinions I care about. Most will recognize that Jere and I stepped in dog poo and are trying to clean it up and pull off a miracle. We might not.”

In related news, Christopher Tierney, the actor who was seriously injured on Dec. 20 after plummeting 30 feet during a performance, will rejoin rehearsals on Monday. [Bloomberg, The Hollywood Reporter]

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Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs: Robot 13 and a Luchador

Strongman

Strongman

Strongman
Written by Charles Soule; Illustrated by Allen Gladfelter
SLG; $9.95

I said in the weekend’s What Are You Reading that I wasn’t sure what to make of the lucha libre genre. “I can easily embrace the sillier aspects of it,” I said, “but it’s off-putting to me that people in the stories always seem to take the luchadors so seriously. We’re asked to believe that the ridiculous masks are badges of honor that command respect. Strongman plays around with that idea and I appreciate that about it.”

Having finished the book, I’m not sure that “plays around with” is the right verb. What Strongman seems to do is acknowledge the irony of the concept, but ends up defending it. As writer Charles Soule says in the press release for the book, “The real-life luchadors were incredible, larger-than-life figures. They were basically real-world superheroes – many of them never took their masks off in public. These people were big deals. And I thought a story that played with their legend a bit, while remaining respectful could be something special.” Okay, so Soule uses “played with” too. Maybe that is what he’s doing. I’m not the best person to judge.

As an outsider to the lucha libre world, I see movie titles like Mil Máscaras vs. the Aztec Mummy and Santo vs. the Vampire Women and I think, “Awesome!” I’m not however thinking about how much I respect El Santo and Mil Máscaras. I mean, no more than I respect Indiana Jones or Batman.

More plus Robot 13 below the cut.

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