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What Are You Reading? with Alex de Campi

Megillat Esther

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week we’re joined by music video director and comic book writer Alex de Campi, whose works include Smoke, Kat & Mouse, Valentine and the in-production Ashes.

To see at Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Bandette’s Paul Tobin & Colleen Coover

Bandette 2

One of the clearcut hits from the first wave of Monkeybrain Comics digital line is Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover‘s Bandette, a great mixture of Tintin and Nancy Drew-type adventure. Today marks the release of Issue 2 — for the great price of 99 cents — where (as you can see by the preview CBR ran yesterday) Bandette foils a bank robbery in her own unique way.

To help get people as riled as I am for today’s release, I recently barraged Coover and Tobin with a series of questions. As a longtime fan of Tobin’s run on Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, it pleased me immensely that Tobin is building somewhat upon the Blonde Phantom/Chat substories/genre he explored in the former series. I also appreciate a turn of phrase that Tobin used (“zest for life”) in discussing the new digital collaboration with Coover. I think zest for life is a quality that fuels Coover’s art.

In addition to the digital Issue 2 coming out today, on Saturday Coover will be at the Jet City Comic Show in Seattle. My thanks to Coover and Tobin for their time.

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Food or Comics? | Wonton soup or Womanthology

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.

20th Century Boys, Volume 22

Chris Arrant

If I only had $15, I’d walk out a happy camper despite only having one book, because that book is 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22 (Viz, $12.99). While your typical American comics fan may have no idea who Naoki Urasawa is, he is in my mind undoubtedly the best cartoonist working today. Twenty-two books in and he hasn’t let up, delivering comics’ example of long-run storytelling perfection a la Sopranos. Friend is one of the most terrifying villains I’ve seen in comics in some time, and the mad assemblage of childhood pals out to stop him are some of my most treasured fictional friends.

If I had $30, I’d come back to comic stores on an American tip, starting off with Godzilla: Half Century War #2 (IDW Publishing, $3.99) by James Stokoe. I missed this when the first issue came out, but since then I’ve found it and relished its pure cartooning chaos. The first issue was an ideal debut, and I’m interested to see Stokoe take Lt. Murakami to Vietman in the ’60s for the ongoing war on Godzilla. After that I’d get the satisfying chunk, Dark Horse Presents #16 (Dark Horse, $7.99). I’ve been repeating the same praises every month, so let me try to spin it differently. This new issue, I have little idea what’s in it besides the return of Crime Doesn’t Pay; there’s a new series by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray in it I have heard nothing about, but DHP has re-built its track record of excellence and I’m fine spending $7.99 sight unseen. My final pick would be Daredevil #18 (Marvel, 2.99). Chris Samnee is quite different than the original artists on the book, but is excelling with Mark Waid in a new way — and that’s good. Instead of aping what had gone before, Samnee assuredly gives us his own style that would make any true fan of art in comics smile.

Oh ,wait, I found some money. I know, I’ll buy Memorial, Vol. 1 (IDW, $24.99). I missed this in singles, and this hardcover looks like the perfect chance to me to make up for past mistakes. These covers by Michael WM Kaluta really get my heart beating, and I’ve been wanting to read more of Chris Roberson on his own. The preview on IDW’s website gives me the impression it’s got down-to-earth personality amidst a fantasy world, and reminds me of classic supernatural fiction like A Wrinkle in Time or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

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Previews: What Looks Good for November

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics — now with 100 percent more JK Parkin! Michael May, Graeme McMillan, Chris Arrant and JK have each picked the five comics they’re most anticipating in order to create a Top 20 (or so; we overlap sometimes) of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.

As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

47 Ronin #1

John Parkin

47 Ronin #1 (Dark Horse, $3.99): Mike Richardson, Dark Horse’s head honcho, teams with Usagi Yojimbo creator Stan Sakai to retell the story of the 47 ronin who avenged their master after he was forced to commit ritual suicide for assaulting a court official. It will be both very cool and a little odd to see Sakai drawing samurai that aren’t anthropomorphic animals and aren’t in black and white (the book’s full color), but I’ve always admired his clean style. As an added bonus, Kazuo Koike of Lone Wolf and Cub fame consulted on the project, so this should be a treat.

Great Pacific #1 (Image Comics, $2.99): Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo have come up with a book that I just love the high concept behind: the heir to one of America’s most successful oil companies moves to the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch and declares it a sovereign country. He then fights giant sea monsters, based on the preview art that’s been released, which is an added bonus.

Marvel NOW!: This might be cheating, but Marvel has 10 new comics debuting in November under the Marvel NOW! banner. Mark Waid on Hulk? John Romita on Captain America? Matt Fraction writing Fantastic Four and FF? Jonathan Hickman on Avengers? Yeah, I’ll just lump all these together and hope no one notices I’m gaming the system here …

Walt Disney’s Donald Duck: A Christmas for Shacktown: Fantagraphics continues its series of high-end collections of the best of Carl Barks’ duck stories, with the Christmas-themed third volume arriving just in time to be stuffed in somebody’s stocking.

Retrovirus (Image Comics, $16.99): Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray’s latest graphic novel, drawn by Norberto Fernandez, is about a research scientist who specializes in viruses heading to Antarctica to examine a perfectly preserved caveman. I’m a fan of Palmiotti and Gray’s work together, from Jonah Hex to The Monolith (which gets the collection treatment in November), and this one sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Monkeybrain Comics’ Allison Baker & Chris Roberson

Monkeybrain Comics

Since the first time I hung out with Monkeybrain Books founders Allison Baker and Chris Roberson at the Westin hotel bar during HeroesCon a few years back, I have longed to do a joint interview with them. While their publishing house Monkeybrain Books has been in existence since 2001, in July Baker and Roberson launched a creator-owned comiXology-distributed digital imprint, Monkeybrain Comics. While much is known of Roberson, not everyone knows Baker’s background. As detailed at their company website: “Allison Baker has worked in feature film and political media production for more than 13 years, while also managing the day-to-day operations of Chris Roberson and Monkeybrain Books.” Please allow me to apologize in advance for not quizzing Roberson about my new favorite Monkeybrain work of his, Edison Rex. Update: After I finished posting this article, Monkeybrain announced that tomorrow (August 14) would mark the release of a 99-cent autobiographical story by Kurt Busiek, Thoughts on A Winter Morning, drawn by Steve Lieber (a story which was originally appeared in Negative Burn: Winter 2005).

Tim O’Shea: Which came first, the decision to move to Portland or the decision to move Monkeybrain into the digital realm?

Allison Baker: The move to PDX was definitely decided first. Monkeybrain Comics started out as an idea and theory, trying to solve a lot of the problems creators run into when working within a traditional publishing model. The final piece of the puzzle came to us at the end of last year. After that we started actively putting it all together in the beginning of 2012.

Chris Roberson: Yeah, we’d been planning our move to Portland for well over a year, and talking about it for a year or two before that. The germ of the idea that would eventually become Monkeybrain Comics was planted around the same time, but didn’t take its final form as a digital comics imprint until the end of last year.

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Comics A.M. | Batman: Earth One leads July bookstore sales

Batman: Earth One

Publishing | DC Comics’ Batman: Earth One, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, topped the Nielsen BookScan list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in July, one of five Batman books to populate the Top 20.  The remainder of the chart was dominated by manga — five spots, with the newest volumes of Sailor Moon and Naruto claiming Nos. 2 and 3 — The Walking Dead — three volumes, with the latest slipping from No. 1 to No. 4 — and Dark Horse’s two Avatar: The Last Airbender books, by Gene Luen Yang, both of which remain in the Top 10. [ICv2]

Publishing | Archaia CEO PJ Bickett talks about some new planned digital products and the current Archaia strategy for its books: “As of right now for 2012 we’ve really focused on some key titles and in building those out as real brands. In the past we’ve taken more of a throwing it out there and hoping for the best [approach] and now we’re taking a more strategic, targeted and strategic approach. We’re seeing a lot of great efforts as a result of it.” [ICv2]

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Food or Comics | Hawkeyed peas

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.

Hawkeye #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start things off with Hawkeye #1 (Marvel, $2.99). David Aja’s built up a great track record from his run on Iron Fist to his various one-off issues in and around the Marvel Universe, so seeing him re-team withIron Fist co-writer Matt Fraction is something special. Without creators like these I’d probably balk at a Hawkeye series, but they make this a must-buy. After that I’d get another first issue, Image’s Harvest #1 (Image, $3.50). AJ Lieberman’s quietly written a number of great stories, and this one seems pretty inventive. I might’ve waited for the trade on this, but newcomer Colin Lorimer’s art on it makes me think he’s going to be a big deal and I need to know about it. For the bronze in my $15 pile, it’s Avengers Vs. X-Men #9 (Marvel, $3.99). This week, Jason Aaron and Andy Kubert take point, re-teaming from their great but under-appreciated Astonishing Wolverine and Spider-Man series from a while back. Lastly, I’d get Daredevil #16 (Marvel, $2.99) because Waid is bringing his A-game, and the recent addition of Chris Samnee only makes it even more impressive. The previews for this issue shows guest appearances by Ant-Man, Doctor Strange and Iron Man, so it’ll be interesting to see how Waid factors them into Matt’s world.

If I had $30, I’d get Thief of Thieves #7 (Image, $2.99), which is becoming one of my favorite Image books and Nick Spencer’s finest at the moment. Having Shawn Martinbrough draw it only helps. After that, I’d get Earth 2 #4 (DC, $2.99). James Robinson is really living up to the “New 52” moniker by giving us one of the most imaginative and different takes on the DCU, and Nicola Scott is drawing up a storm here. After that, I’d tie things up with RASL #15 ($4.99). Jeff, you get my money sight unseen.

If I could splurge, I’d take a chance and order Absalom: Ghosts of London (2000 AD, $17.99) because it looks pretty great. British cops governing over an ages-old pact between the English government and hell? Hell yeah.

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Talking Comics with Tim | D.J. Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave

Amelia Cole and the Unknown World #2

This week I catch up with Amelia Cole and the Unknown World co-writers D.J. Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave, who were part of the first round of Monkeybrain Comics creative releases on July 2. With Issue 2 poised to launch Aug. 7, it struck me as a good time to interview Kirkbride and Knave. Here’s the official nutshell description of the series: “Amelia Cole lives in two worlds — literally. One runs on magic, the other built on technology. When the barriers between those worlds start to break down, Amelia and her aunt Dani must take extreme action.” Before you read the interview, I must stress there is some spoiler info connected to Dani in this interview, so please do not read the interview if you have yet to pick up the first issue. My thanks to the co-writers for their time.

Tim O’Shea: Whom approached who, did the Amelia Cole team seek out Monkeybrain or vice versa?

Adam P. Knave: We’ve known [Monkeybrain Comics’] Chris [Roberson] and Allison [Baker] for a while now and so we kept in touch, you know, the way people do. So when we started Amelia Cole (originally we were thinking of doing it as a web comic) we sent them the first issue just to kind of go “Hey, this is what we’re working on.” no higher purpose, just friends sharing creative endeavors with friends.

D.J. Kirkbride: Yeah, Chris and Allison are good peoples, and we were curious as to what they thought of our book. We’re fans of Chris’s writing, too, so we were a little nervous. Well, I was. Adam’s nerves, like his beard, are made of steel.

Knave: And then one day we got an email explaining the whole Monkeybrain thing and asking if we were interested. So Amelia herself sought them out, except none of us knew it at the time.

Kirkbride: Ooh, that sounds magical.

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What Are You Reading? with D.J. Kirkbride and Adam Knave

Saga #4

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our special guests are D.J. Kirkbride and Adam Knave, writers of Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, which was released last week by Monkeybrain Comics.

To see what Adam, D.J. and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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Comics A.M. | Is a battle over Thanos building? Tim Marchman redux

Thanos

Creators | Following the appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor and the cameo by Thanos in The Avengers, Marvel appears poised to expand the cosmic elements of its cinematic universe with The Guardians of the Galaxy. While some fans eagerly await a movie announcement next week at Comic-Con International, Thanos creator Jim Starlin (who had to buy his own tickets to Thor and The Avengers) may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge: Heidi MacDonald points out that Starlin has posted an early drawing of the Mad Titan on his Facebook page, writing, “This is probably one of the first concept drawings of Thanos I ever did, long before I started working at Marvel. Jack Kirby’s Metron is clearly the more dominant influence in this character’s look. Not Darkseid. Both D and T started off much smaller than they eventually became. This was one of the drawings I had in my portfolio when I was hired by Marvel. It was later inked by Rich Buckler.” [The Beat]

Comics | Tim Marchman, author of that much-discussed Wall Street Journal article, is at it again, this time interviewing Watchmen editor Len Wein about his work on Before Watchmen, and including the interventions of DC Comics Publicity Manager Pamela Mullin as part of the story. Between the embargo on the comic and Mullin doing her job, it sounds like the most interesting parts of the interview never made it into the final product. [The Daily Beast]

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The Middle Ground #110 | The Way These Things Turn Out

This was, at one point earlier in the week, going to be the place where I looked forward to the first wave of Monkeybrain Comics, which were originally going to be released tomorrow. Then, of course, Monkeybrain got announced, went viral in the way that lots of publishers claim to but don’t actually manage, and ended up putting out their books two days early due to reader demand. I’m telling you, I don’t like the way that their good fortune screws with my carefully planned* timetable.

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Monkeybrain Comics explodes on Twitter, launches early

Bandette #1

If you only checked Twitter today for your news, you know that, among other fun facts, Anderson Cooper is gay, Big Sean gave Justin Bieber a pinkie ring and Chris Roberson announced the new digital comics initiative Monkeybrain Comics is coming July 4.

Make that was coming, actually–due to the attention they received today, Monkeybrain and comiXology decided to launch the line early.

“With “#Monkeybrain” trending worldwide on Twitter most of the day, Monkeybrain Comics and comiXology have taken the unprecedented step of releasing the entire launch line of Monkeybrain Comics two days early. Available now at this link, fans worldwide can stop tweeting about “#Monkeybrain” and start experiencing this great new line of comics. (But seriously, don’t stop tweeting about it either! – Chris and Allison.),” read the press release from comiXology.

Available now from comiXology are:

  • Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer L. Meyer
  • Amelia Cole and the Unknown World by Adam P. Knave, DJ Kirkbride and Nick Brokenshire
  • Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover
  • Edison Rex by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver
  • October Girl by Matthew Dow Smith

I’m downloading Bandette as I type this, soon to be followed by the rest. The comics are 13-16 pages each for 99 cents except for Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, which is $1.99 for 31 pages. I mean, seriously; 99 cents for a Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover comic? I’m all over that. You can check out artwork from each of them over on CBR.

Previews: What Looks Good for August

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics.

Wait a minute … “monthly”?

It’s true that we haven’t taken a What Looks Good tour in a few months, but the feature is back with an all-new approach that we hope will be more varied and useful than the old format. Instead of Michael and Graeme just commenting on everything that catches our attention in the catalog, we’ve invited Chrises Mautner and Arrant to join us in each picking the five new comics we’re most looking forward to. What we’ll end up with is a Top 20 (or so; there may be some overlap) of the best new comics coming out each month.

As usual, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Love and Rockets: New Stories, Number 5

Chris Mautner

1) Love and Rockets New Stories #5 by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (Fantagraphics) — How do you possibly top the triumphant storytelling feat that was “The Love Bunglers”? I dunno, but Jaime Hernandez is certainly going to give it the old college try, this time shifting the focus onto the vivacious “Frogmouth” character. Gilbert, meanwhile, brings back some of his classic Palomar characters, so yeah, this is pretty much a “must own” for me.

2) Skippy Vol. 1: Complete Dailies 1925-1927 by Percy Crosby (IDW) — Percy Crosby’s Skippy might well be the great forgotten comic strip of the 20th century. Extremely popular in its day, and a huge influence on such luminaries as Charles Schulz, the strip has largely been forgotten and the name conjures up little more than images of peanut butter. IDW’s effort to reacquaint folks with this strip might change that — the few snippets I’ve read suggest this is real lost gem.

3) The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell (Uncivilized Books) — Tom Kaczynski’s small-press publishing company drops its first major, “big book” release with this memoir from the always-excellent Gabrielle Bell. Collecting work from her series Lucky (and, I think, some of her recent minis), the book chronicles a turbulent five year period as she travels around the world. Should be great.

4) Godzilla: The Half Century War by James Stokoe (IDW) — I usually stay as far away from licensed books as possible, but there is one simple reason I’m including this comic in my top five: James Stokoe. Stokoe’s Orc Stain has quickly become one of my favorite serialized comics, and his obsession with detailing every inch of the page combined with his ability to incorporate significant manga storytelling tropes in his work convince me he can do a solid job chronicling the adventures of the big green lizard that spits radioactive fire.

5) Barbara by Osamu Tezuka (Digital Manga) — Speaking of manga, here’s one of the more noteworthy Kickstarter projects of recent years: Digital Manga’s attempt to bring the master’s saga of a famous author and the homeless, beautiful woman he takes in and assumes to be his literal muse. This is well regarded in many Tezuka fan circles as one of the cartoonist’s better adult stories, and I’m glad to see Digital willing to take a chance on bringing more Tezuka to the West. I’ll definitely be buying this. I should also note that Vertical will also be offering some Tezuka this month, namely a new edition of Adolph (originally published by Viz in the ’90s), here titled Message to Adolph but well worth checking out regardless of the title.

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The Before Watchmen controversy in a nutshell

Brian Truitt has a nice backgrounder on the Before Watchmen controversy at USA Today that allows both sides to state their case. If you’re just tuning in, on the eve of the sprawling prequel’s debut, this will save you a lot of time. The basic question: Should DC Comics create a prequel to Alan Moore’s Watchmen despite his opposition to the project?

DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio: “The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”

Former DC writer Chris Roberson: “Watchmen is a book, complete in one volume, with a beginning, middle and end. The continued attempts to recontextualize it as a ‘franchise’ or a ‘universe’ are, I think, part of the problem.”

Darwyn Cooke, one of the Before Watchmen creators, also observes that Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons does support the new books, and that his voice should not be ignored. (Cooke is also spotlighted in a separate article about the Before Watchmen: Minutemen miniseries, which debuts Wednesday.)

Still not heard from: Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie on how they feel about Moore’s reuse of their characters in Lost Girls.

Roger Langridge just says no to more Marvel and DC work

Roger Langridge is the latest creator to say he is no longer going to work for Marvel or DC Comics because of concerns about the way they treat creators.

The subject came up last week, when Langridge, the writer of Thor: The Mighty Avenger, the Muppets comics (originally created for BOOM! Studios and now being republished by Marvel) and John Carter: A Princess of Mars, was interviewed on The Orbiting Pod podcast. After chatting about his newest comics Snarked! and Popeye (which IDW Publishing has just expanded from a four-issue miniseries to an ongoing series), he added this:

I’m very happy to be cultivating a working relationship with people like BOOM! and IDW at the moment when Marvel and DC are turning out to be quite problematic from an ethical point of view to continue working with.

I think it’s down to everybody’s individual conscience, but I think those of us who have options—and I do have options, I’ve got a working relationship with a couple of different publishers, I’ve got illustration to fall back on, I’m not beholden to Marvel and DC for my bread and butter, so it seems to me that if you do have the option you should maybe think hard about what you are doing and who you are doing it for. I was writing the last issue of John Carter when the news came that Marvel had won a lawsuit against the heirs of Jack Kirby, and Steve Bissette wrote a very impassioned post about the ethics of working for Marvel under those circumstances, and pretty much then I figured I should finish the script I was writing and move on, and it’s not like Marvel needs me. It’s no skin off their nose if I don’t accept anything else from them in the future.

On his blog, Langridge clarifies that he made the decision last summer, at a time when he wasn’t doing any Marvel or DC work, so he’s not so much quitting as deciding not to go back. His statements come less than a month after iZombie and Superman writer Chris Roberson made headlines with his announcement that he’s ending his relationship with DC because of its treatment of creators and their heirs.


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