Monkeybrain Comics announced and released five new titles last month at Comic-Con International, including Phil Hester and Tyler Walpole’s Dropout. Hester and Walpole couldn’t be at the convention, but were willing to talk with me not only about the new series, but their collaboration in general, including a personal favorite of mine: their 2005 canceled-too-soon series Stronghold.
Michael May: You guys worked together before on Stronghold. How did you meet and what drew you toward wanting to work together?
Tyler Walpole: Phil and I are both from Iowa and when I was in high school he was one of the only professional comic book artists I had met in person (at a little comic book show at a local mall). I always liked him as an artist, but when I read his comic, The Coffin, I was blown away with his writing! So when he expressed interest in working with me, I jumped at the chance.
Phil Hester: I met Tyler when he was just a kid, and I mean really just a kid. He and Andy Brase were kicking around the Iowa comics scene as teens and I could tell both guys were going to go places. I guess I’ve always been looking for something to work on with Tyler and when Stronghold popped up, I knew he’d be right for it.
Writer Anina Bennett and artist Paul Guinan join the Monkeybrain Comics line with today’s digital re-release of first episode of their creator-owned Heartbreakers, which originally appeared in Dark Horse Presents #35 in 1989.
The sci-fi adventure has gathered has gathered a growing following over the years, and as it turns out Monkeybrain Co-Publisher Chris Roberson is one of those longtime fans.
Bennett and Guinan spoke with ROBOT 6 about the history and influence of Heartbreakers, its digital debut, and why they partnered with Monkeybrain. To learn how real-world events helped to change the direction of Heartbreakers makes me even more interested to see how Bennett and Guinan plan to observe the comic’s 25th anniversary next year.
If you’re attending Comic-Con International in San Diego, be sure to visit Bennett and Guinan in Artists Alley at Booth CC-01.
Graphic novel sales | The top-selling graphic novel in bookstores last month was the 18th volume of The Walking Dead, according to BookScan, followed by Naruto, Vol. 61, Saga, Vol. 2, Sailor Moon, Vol. 11, and perennial bestseller The Walking Dead Compendium, Vol. 1. It was a good month for manga, which took 10 of the Top 20 slots; not so much for DC, which had just one book in the Top 20, and Marvel, which had none. [ICv2]
Comics sales | Comic and graphic novel sales were up in the second quarter of 2013 compared to the same period last year, but ICv2 termed it a “solid but unspectacular” quarter compared to a “torrid” Q1. Anemic sales in June were partly to blame — comics sales were up, graphic novel sales were down. [ICv2]
Free Comic Book Day is once again upon us, the day that current and hopefully potential comic fans flock to their local comic shop to sample a buffet of comic choices from publishers large and small. There’s a lot to sink your teeth into this time around, from previews of new or upcoming stuff — like Marble Season and Superman: The Last Son of Krypton #1 to first issues of brand new comics — like The Strangers #1 and Aphrodite IX #1. There are original comics, licensed comics, kids comics, anthologies … basically something for everyone.
Some retailers will offer all-you-can-eat options, while others might have limits on what you can get … so if you have to make a choice, here are six comics we’re particularly looking to sink our teeth into.
Chris Roberson has been thinking what comic writers are supposed to do in comics. While many creators follow the usual trajectory of creator-owned projects to Marvel or DC, the Portland, Oregon-based writer went from the Big Two and found his true calling, making his own comics and helping others to do the same.
A science fiction author, Roberson was ushered into comics as a colleague and co-writer of Fables creator Bill Willingham. However, Roberson quickly branched out, first with the Vertigo series iZombie, and then as the writer of Superman, putting him in the unenviable position of picking up the pieces after J. Michael Straczynski left midway through his much-heralded run. Although he turned in some great work in his short run on Superman/Batman, Roberson ultimately found DC not the kind of place he wanted to continue working.
Several weeks ago when I interviewed Edison Rex co-creator Chris Roberson, we had hoped to include co-creator Dennis Culver in the discussion. Schedules didn’t work out at the time, but happily, on the eve of the deadline to pre-order the Edison Rex trade paperback (Diamond Code APR130377), Culver’s schedule freed up for an interview about his co-creation.
As if collecting the Edison Rex issues 1-6 isn’t enough to interest you in this IDW Publishing release, Roberson and Culver have scored an introduction by the great Kurt Busiek. The collection will hit shelves June 12.
Tim O’Shea: How did the IDW publishing deal come together?
Dennis Culver: That was all [Monkeybrain Comics co-publishers] Chris [Roberson] and Allison [Baker]. From what I understand, IDW had expressed an interest in print collections fairly early in the Monkeybrain launch, and I was on board as soon as I heard. They gave us a fair deal and they put out great looking books. I’m very happy to publish Rex through them!
At least a couple of times over the course of the weekend, Bill Willingham talked about his goal for the Fabletown and Beyond convention he hosted in Rochester, Minnesota. He may not have actually used the term “bucket list,” but that’s essentially what the show seems to have been for him: an opportunity to throw the kind of comics convention he wanted to attend and to see if other creators and fans would enjoy it just as much. From the standing ovation he received at Sunday’s closing ceremony, it appears he was right.
Chris Roberson pointed out to me that Fabletown and Beyond was a lot like fantasy and sci-fi literary conventions. It had that feel from the opening ceremony (an idea Willingham freely admits to stealing from fantasy/sci-fi shows) to the final farewell. It was completely focused on comics and storytelling, and it was a uniquely intimate experience. The show was only designed to accommodate a maximum of 500 attendees, and it got 505. That meant I kept seeing the same faces over and over again all weekend — creators and fans alike — so that by the third day, even people I never talked to were familiar. Instead of a hectic event where people rushed from place to place trying to see and do everything they wanted to, it was a relaxed environment that felt more like just hanging out with friends. Really smart, interesting friends.
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Following events like last year’s ImageCon and MorrisonCon, Fabletown and Beyond is the most recent comic convention devoted to serving a specific segment of readers: in this case, fans of what Fables creator Bill Willingham describes as “Mythic Fiction.” Fabletown and Beyond takes place this weekend in Willingham’s community of Rochester, Minnesota, and celebrates comics that include and update “fairytales, folklore, myth, legend, talking animals, and characters from literature.”
The festivities begin at 3 p.m. Friday and run practically non-stop until 6 p.m. Sunday. Programming is scheduled to go late into the evening on Friday and Saturday with the convention’s bar (an even more important element of this convention than most) staying open until 2 a.m.
The convention will take place in two locations, connected by skyways to allow attendees protection from the Minnesota weather. The dealers’ area, Artist
Alley Boulevard, and programming rooms will be located in in the Mayo Civic Center, with the opening ceremony and other special events held in the Kahler Grand Hotel. The hotel is also the location of the Elizabethan bar (re-named the Kill Shakespeare Bar for the weekend) that will be taken over for the exclusive use of the convention.
Last week was a banner one for Monkeybrain Comics, as plans were revealed to “bring its digital titles to print beginning in June in collected editions released through IDW Publishing and Shadowline/Image.” But before this deal was announced I caught up with Chris Roberson, the writer of Edison Rex and co-publisher of Monkeybrain.
This interview was conducted before the IDW and Shadowline/Image agreements were announced, which is why they’re not discussed. Edison Rex #6 will be released March 13. Roberson is great to chat with about the creative process, as he relishes revealing how the narrative hot dogs are made almost as much as creating the stories themselves. The world that Roberson and co-creator/artist Dennis Culver had built for the series fascinates me, and it was a pleasure to chat with the writer about it.
Tim O’Shea: As much as this series is about a villain becoming a hero, there’s a great undercurrent of humor. Is that the core appeal of the series from a creative standpoint?
Chris Roberson: I always like a little levity in the stories I read or the shows I watch. When stories maintain a consistently grim tone, it can be a little wearying. Adding in a joke here and there not only serves to lighten the mood from time to time, but also makes the more serious moments stand out by contrast.
Monkeybrain Comics will bring its digital titles to print beginning in June in collected editions released through IDW Publishing and Shadowline/Image. Launched in July 2012 by Monkeybrain founders Chris Roberson and Allison Barker, the digital imprint has so far distributed its creator-owned comics exclusively through comiXology.
The print editions will kick off with the IDW collection of Edison Rex, Roberson and Dennis Culver’s story about the world’s greatest villain who must figure out what to do with his life after he defeats his arch-nemesis. That will be followed in July by the Shadowline/Image collection of Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson’s superhero-noir anthology Masks & Mobsters. The initial wave of collections will conclude in August with the IDW release of Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, the fantasy from Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride and Nick Brokeshire. More collections announcements are promised in coming months.
“Print collections have been a main goal from the beginning and it’s really exciting to see such a major piece of the plan fall into place,” Baker said in a statement, “especially since it means even more people get to discover the amazing work of our creators!”
Welcome to the very last Food or Comics. Next week our new-release picks will take a different format, but this week we’re still talking about what comics we’d buy at our local 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.
Let’s be honest, if I had $15, I’d make sure that Batman Incorporated #8 (DC Comics, $2.99) was first on my list. Not because of any controversy — I’ve been enjoying the series all along — but because I’d be worried it’d sell out if I waited. I’d also grab two Dynamite books: Jennifer Blood #23 and Masks #4 (both $3.99); Al Ewing has done just insane, amazing things on the former, and the Chris Roberson/Dennis Calero team on the latter is just killing it.
If I had $30, I’d find myself time traveling to all the weeks prior in which I didn’t use all $30 to borrow a dollar from past-me, just so that I could get Showcase Presents Justice League of America, Vol. 6 (DC Comics, $19.99), which takes the series firmly into the 1970s and brings the team face to face with villains including the Shaggy Man, Amazo and countless other favorites of my childhood.
Should I have some splurging left in me after that nostalgia-fest, I’d likely go for the Judge Anderson: PSI Files, Vol. 3 collection (Rebellion, $32.99), which picks the series up just after I’d dropped off the 2000AD radar for awhile, and hopefully gives me the chance to get back into the character, now that I am firmly into Thrill Power again.
If the cancellation of DC Comics’ Superman Family Adventures has left you a little deflated, take heart: Longtime collaborators Franco Aureliani and Art Baltazar are turning to Kickstarter to launch their Aw Yeah Comics!, an “all-reader friendly” series with contributions from established and new talents alike, including Mark Waid, Brad Meltzer, Chris Roberson and Jason Aaron. The series was originally announced in July.
The comic, which stars Baltazar and Franco’s Action Cat and Adventure Bug, is designed to appeal to children and adults alike: “Our hope is to present a comic book that has just as much to offer a little girl as it does a little boy, and leave absolutely no one out of the fun. Because fun is important. Fun is a good thing for a comic book to have, and we want to add a little bit more of it to what’s out there now.”
Aw Yeah Comics!, which shares its name with the duo’s Skokie, Illinois, store, will debut in April with Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. According to the Kickstarter page, work on the first three issues is about 80 percent complete, while issues four through six are at about 60 percent. To help reach their $15,000 goal, they’re offering pledge incentives like an exclusive digital comic, an original mini-painting by Baltazar, a guest appearance by a donor’s own character, and a cover by Franco for a donor’s comic book.
The Kickstarter campaign ends March 7.
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.
If I had $15 this week, it’d be all first issues, all the time. Being a Trek fan, I couldn’t resist IDW’s Star Trek: Countdown to Darkness #1 ($3.99), offering some glimpses into the new movie for the first time outside of the trailer, for one thing. Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers #1 (Marvel, $2.99) looks to be equally unmissable judging from both the previews and interviews heralding its launch, and also Gillen’s performance on Iron Man and other titles recently, so that’d make it in there, too. Finally, I’d grab The Answer #1 (Dark Horse, $3.99), Dennis Hopeless and Mike Norton’s new superhero/mystery series. I’ve been back and forth about Hopeless in the past (loved his X-Men: Season One; hate his Avengers Arena), but the hook for this one looks pretty solid and Norton’s work is always nice to gaze at.
Should I suddenly find myself with an additional $15, I’d add some current favorites to the pile: Chris Roberson and Dennis Calero’s pulp dystopia Masks #3 (Dynamite, $3.99), Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opena’s Avengers #3 (Marvel, $3.99, and less a “favorite” than an “undecided about, but was surprised by how much I appreciated that second issue”) and Greg Rucka and Matt Southworth’s Stumptown #5 (Oni, $3.99). After the fourth issue of Stumptown, I’d pick that last one up even if Rucka had accidentally forgotten to write any dialogue in there. Did you see that last issue? Man …
Were I to splurge, it’d almost feel greedy after this week of bounty. Nonetheless, I’d grab The Spider, Vol. 1: Terror of The Zombie Queen (Dynamite, $19.99), the collected edition of the first storyline from David Liss’ revival of the pulp hero that I loved based on the first issue but somehow fell off of before the end of that first arc for reasons that escape me. Definitely curious to revisit it.
It’s become an annual tradition during our birthday bash: No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of people 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 liked in 2012 and what they are excited about for 2013.
Check out Part One, and keep reading to see more of what people shared with us, including details on their upcoming projects. Our thanks to everyone who responded this year. Also, thanks again to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.
SAM HUMPHRIES (The Ultimates, Sacrifice, Uncanny X-Force)
What was your favorite comic of 2012?
- Simon Hanselmann’s Megg and Mogg strips at http://girlmountain.tumblr.com. Hilarious, dark, and strange.
- SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jilian Tamaki at: http://mutantmagic.com/. Beautiful, funny, and heartbreaking.
My brain always shifts toward musical thoughts whenever possible. So when I learned Curt Pires was writing a story called Theremin, I assumed he meant the musical instrument. As I found out quite quickly in this interview, Pires’ new collaboration with artist Dalton Rose is focused on the inventor of the instrument, Léon Theremin. The series is slated to launch digitally from Monkeybrain Comics in March.
Robot 6: When we last spoke in September, you said your game plan for Theremin was that you intended to self-distribute it. How did it land at Monkeybrain?
Curt Pires: Initially my game plan was to self-distribute Theremin, correct. Well, It really developed out of talking with Dalton, discussing our plans for the book. We decided that we should sample the book to potential publishers, at least put feelers out there – see what the interest was in the book. We sent the first six pages and plot info over to Chris Roberson and Allison Baker at Monkeybrain, and they liked what they saw enough to invite us aboard to tell our story there. We could not be happier to be telling this story with them.