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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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A Scrooge and Santa Q&A

Last year, around this time, a Christmas comic caught my eye: Scrooge and Santa, by Matthew Wilson and Josh Kenfield. I liked it a lot—it mashes up a lot of Christmas traditions but still has a fairly original story, and the kinetic art made me think of an animated cartoon. So this year, I fired off some questions for Wilson and Kenfield about their story—which is back in comics stores this week, just in time for Christmas.

Robot 6: What was your favorite Christmas special (or movie or book) when you were a kid? (I see a lot of shout-outs to It’s a Wonderful Life—was that one of your favorites?)

Matt: Definitely It’s a Wonderful Life! It’s not only my favorite Christmas movie, but one of my favorite movies of all time. I love the honesty. It’s known as a feel-good movie, but people forget how dark it is. George Bailey spends most of the movie frustrated and angry. His life is so hard and difficult that he’s ready to kill himself.  But in the end, when all his family and friends show him the impact a lifetime of doing the right thing has made, that joy is real and the feel-good moment is earned. That’s something I hoped to do with Scrooge and Santa, give everyone a feel-good Christmas moment without cheating and manipulating emotions.

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Tony Piro asks readers to help stop the copying

Last year around this time, Calamaties of Nature creator Tony Piro posted a pointed parody of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was well received, but, imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, it was also copied, altered and posted all over the internet without attribution.

Yesterday, Piro noted the problem:

My use of the Peanuts characters, in a comic that I drew and wrote myself, is allowed as a parody. But when people grab my art, change a few words, and label it as their own, it amounts to theft. Of course people are free to make their own parodies, but they should use their own art and writing. I could attempt to police these copies, but ultimately this is impossible to do on the internet, especially once images start spreading on social sites like Facebook.

Of course, if his appropriation of Charles Schulz’s characters is allowable as parody, couldn’t some of his imitators claim the same thing about their appropriation of Tony Piro’s comic? Semantics aside, Piro realizes the futility of trying to stop the appropriators, so his solution is to ask his readers to post his version of the comic, with attribution, in a sort of good-information-crowds-out-bad strategy. To show that he’s no Grinch, Piro will donate $1 to Doctors Without Borders for every 500 extra page views the comic gets.

And to round out this Christmas story, someone popped up in comments to apologize for unknowingly using an altered version of the comic. Of course, the trolls were there too…

(Via Fleen.)

Miracles and superheroes: Some thoughts on Batman: The Brave and The Bold #14

House Ad for 1976 Ragman series by co-creator Joe Kubert

As miracle-based winter holidays go, Jewish Chanukah suffers a bit in constant comparison to Christian Christmas, a fact that has to do more with a coincidence of the calendar than with the importance of the holidays to the respective groups who celebrate them.

That is, Christmas is the second biggest holiday of the Christian year, behind Easter, and the one that has been most widely embraced by secular culture. For Jews, Chanukah is a relatively minor religious holiday.

The two holidays are generally forced into contrast each winter as they are celebrated around the same time, though, and Chanukah can’t help but come across as the lesser of the two, in a miracle vs. miracle sense.

The miracle of Chanukah, beyond the military victory in which the Maccabees defeated the vastly larger  Greek army (Take that, Frank Miller and Zack Snyder!),  was that the one day’s worth of oil they had to burn in the temple menorah burned for eight days.

Christmas has a couple of miracles for Christians, including a virgin birth, a portentous star in the sky and angels visiting multiple witnesses.

From an outsider  standpoint, the Chanukah story has a lot more action, but the Christmas one inspires more awe.

Of course, neither the temple oil lasting a supernaturally long time nor a baby being born to a virgin and that event’s accompanying aerial phenomenon seem quite as impressive as this particular miracle: A magical suit stitched together from rags transforms the person who wears it into a superhero, granting him super-strength and invulnerability, limited flight ability, and, most, spectacularly, the ability to absorb the souls of truly evil people, transforming them into rags in his quilt-like suit.

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The Fifth Color | How to give the gift of comics this season

Marvel Holiday Special vol 1

I bet you Ben never knows what to get Franklin every year...

Perhaps your family gathering is going to have way more kids than previous years. Maybe the moment is right for you to hand down some traditional comics reading to a son or daughter. Is your significant other a little more receptive toward your choice of literature these days? You could have even pulled a co-worker at your Secret Santa office party who likes to talk to you about the latest comic book movie. Personally, my brother gave me his comic collection when I was a kid, and I always like to try and give him a couple new ones in return, as a way of saying thank you and reminding him of his roots.

We all have reasons for giving comics and comic-related accessories this holiday season. Comics have been vetted in popular culture, can cover a dozen different interests and physical forms, and always have been a perfectly wonderful gift for any age or interest. In fact, I think we’d all appreciate a little recruitment drive to keep comics at the top of the charts and off cancellation lists!

I’m not saying it’s easy, though. Well, it might be. For some fair readers, you could be looking at a big pile of gifts already wrapped under your Christmas tree, taking a deep breath of satisfaction. Then again, you could be strapped for cash, gift ideas and time to make sure that you don’t show up somewhere empty handed. Or worse, you could be the giftee and all Grandma knows is that you like Batman. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a guide to all the best gifts this year? Well, there is, the fine folks at CBR made up a Holiday Gift Guide, while we here at Robot 6 reached out to comic pros to see what they recommended, and I could recommend no finer list made by dashing and intellectual folks.

Then again, what if this is odd gift shopping? Working retail, I meet the clueless, the frazzled, the fearful and the confused for whom a simple and eloquently put-together list would not be enough. So for you, who will still be shopping on Dec. 24, to anyone who has ever gotten two Batman toothbrushes as a gag gift, to anyone who might be sent out into the cold for the first time to find a comic book, this guide is for you.

This is your Fear Gift-self shopping guide.

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The Fifth Color | End of the line with Marvel’s December solicitations

Daredevil #7 (new)

That's a strange amount of whimsy from Matt Murdock...

Now, I will admit that the Distinguished Competition has given this month an air of finality.  So many No. 1 issues, what could possibly come next? Tonight there will be drinks raised high and hands shaken to a job well done as their Wrap Party ends this publishing month at Golden Apple Comics.  And it does seem a little final, doesn’t it?

It’s the perfect mood for looking ahead to December, where the last of the Marvel books published this year will leave 2011 not with a bang or a whimper, but with a dawn of things to come.  I’m not saying it’s a very big dawn or a brilliant one either; right now, I will full admit things look kind of so-so for December at Marvel …

… then again, I have been wrong before, so let’s take a look at December’s books, shall we?
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Me and My iPad: A Very Cthulhu Christmas

Christmas is over, but for those who can’t get enough — or for those who hate the holiday so much that they wish it would be devoured by the ultimate horror — the Penny Arcade guys have a treat for you. The Last Christmas is an animated storybook for the iPad, based on a comic that first appeared in 2004. Basically, it’s a reverse twist on The Night Before Christmas in which Cthulhu arrives and eats everything in sight. It looks like a children’s book, but the horror/cuteness combination is really aimed at adults: In the iPad version, which is lightly animated, tiny skaters fall from the ice after Cthulhu pops up in the middle of it, and lights twinkle on a tree as he devours it (and the screaming hordes run in horror). The app is only a few pages long, and it’s free; the last page is a pitch for donations to Child’s Play, the charity established by Penny Arcade creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, which sends toys, games, and books to children in hospitals worldwide.

(via Fleen)

Happy Holidays from Robot 6

by Chris Samnee

With the holiday weekend upon us, we’re winding down here at Robot 6 to go spend time with family and friends. Before heading off to stuff our stockings and trim this trees, though, you’ll find a collection of holiday-themed links after the jump.

On behalf of all of Robot 6, have a great holiday and stay safe. We’ll see you next week.

(Above: Chris Samnee says happy holidays, Thor style).

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Axe Cop

Welcome once again to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy based on certain spending limits — $15, $30 to spend and if we had extra money to spend on what we call the “Splurge” item. Check out Diamond’s release list for this week if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Michael May

If I had $15:

I’d be all about the Axe Cop, Volume 1 ($14.99). Should be the best thing since Katie Mignola’s The Magician and the Snake.

If I had $30:

I’d add On the Case with Holmes and Watson, Volume 5: The Adventure of the Speckled Band ($6.95) and Robert E. Howard’s Savage Sword #1 ($7.99). Those On the Case books are cool and a Howard anthology of new and reprinted material sounds awesome. Especially when the creators involved include Paul Tobin, Marc Andreyko, Tim Bradstreet and Barry Windsor Smith.

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Henry & Glenn (i.e. Rollins & Danzig) wish you a merry Anti-Christmas

Move over, Rudolph and Charlie Brown: There’s a new Christmas cartoon classic in town. Exploding from the pages of Henry & Glenn Forever — the very very funny romance/gag-strip comic chronicling the eternal love between musclebound, black-clad hardcore progenitors Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig — comes the Henry & Glenn Forever X-Mas Special, an animated short by cartoonist and animator Tom Neely. Neely, who co-created Henry & Glenn Forever with fellow Igloo Tornado art-collective members Gin Stevens, Scot Nobles, and Dino Fucker, serves up a heartwarming tale reminiscent of O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” — if, that is, “Gift of the Magi” included a visit from Black Santa and Krampus, a jam session with notorious Satanists Darryl Hall and John Oates, and an exchange of thong underwear and a book about Nazi werewolves, all in honor of the birthday of H.P. Lovecraft. It’s the perfect reminder that the Henry & Glenn Forever comic makes a great fishnet-stocking stuffer. Season’s greetings, you goddamn son of a bitch!

Robot Reviews: The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories

The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories
Edited by Craig Yoe
IDW, 176 pages, $34.99

When I was a kid, the word “treasury” promised delights beyond measure, and Christmas was the time when treasuries—of comics, fairy tales, Christmas stories, and other delights—showed up under the tree.

Craig Yoe’s The Great Treasury of Christmas Comic Book Stories is a throwback to those days when a big, fat, colorful book was the centerpiece of the Christmas swag. It is very much a baby-boomer book, chock full of colorful stories from the 1940s and 1950s, but most of the material has aged pretty well and there are some solid classics in there. Of course there are some clinkers, too, but that’s the way of anthologies.

Most notable among the good stuff are several stories by Walt Kelly. His Santa tales are a far cry from Pogo, with a massive, good-natured Santa surrounded by cherubic elves, while his winsome animal stories are more familiar but all sweetness and no bite. The most imaginative of his stories is “The Great Three-Flavored Blizzard,” a classic fairy-tale type story in which weather problems threaten Christmas (no snow, no sleigh) until an elf and the Easter Bunny solve the problem by using ice cream for snow.

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What Are You Reading?

Uncanny X-Force #1

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew has been enjoying on the comics front. Today our special guest is our friend Ron Richards, one of the co-founders of the popular comics website To see what Ron and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Gift suggestions for every taste | Vintage X-Men game, Brown’s cat cards

Wolverine by Dan Panosian

Brigid did a round-up yesterday of various holiday gift-giving suggestions, so I thought I’d follow suit with some that I’ve seen lately.

• The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is auctioning off original art by Paul Pope, Eric Powell, Gabriel Hardman, Tom Fowler, Dan Paosian and many more, as well as lunch with Chew writer John Layman in New York next week.

• I remember shoveling a whole bunch of quarters into the X-Men arcade game back in the day; my friend Mike and I beat the game as Nightcrawler and Wolverine. If you have an Xbox fan in your life, they too can fight the Blob, Magneto and more in side-scrolling action, as the game will be available on Xbox Live Arcade Dec. 15. The PlayStation Network, unfortunately, won’t get it until February, so you’ll have to find something else this holiday season for the PS3 fan in your life. Joy to the world! The game will hit the PlayStation Network Dec. 14!

• Khepri Comics is selling Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon’s Atelier, a comic they created to sell at conventions.

• Comics creator Ben Towle has a 20 percent off sale going in his web store, where you can purchase original art from books like Midnight Sun, signed copies of Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean and superhero commissions.

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

Thor: The Mighty Avenger

Welcome to our weekly “Food or Comics?” feature, where we set certain hypothetical spending limits on ourselves and go through the agony of trying to determine what comics come home for Christmas dinner and which ones stay on the shelves, sitting cold and lonely through the holidays. So join us as we run down what comics we’d buy if they only had $15 and $30 to spend, as well as what we’d get if we had some “mad money” to splurge with.

Check out Diamond’s release list for this week to play along. Because of weather issues, shops on the West Coast won’t be getting everything; Brian Hibbs has a list of what to expect in his store in San Francisco, which should give you an idea of what is and isn’t showing up out here.

Brigid Alverson

If I had $15…

No question, I’d get the first trade of Thor: The Mighty Avenger ($14.99). Back when I read superhero comics, The Mighty Thor was one of my favorites, and I’d love to revisit the character without getting tripped up by all the continuity I missed. This series has gotten great word-of-blog, particularly since it was canceled, and that has me curious as well.

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Top Cow holiday specials join forces to form one super-mega special

Top Cow Holiday Special

Last week Jingle Belle creator Paul Dini said on Twitter that the previously solicited Jingle Belle special for this year was canceled, but the content would be combined with the Top Cow Holiday Special.

“Low preorders necessitated the Jing titles to be combined into the Top Cow special,” he later told an inquiring fan. “Ironically preorders shot up after that.”

According to Top Cow, the two former single issues, along with a lot of other material, will now be one graphic novel.

“Jingle Belle and the Top Cow Holiday Special (both single issues) were combined this year and will appear as the Top Cow Holiday Special OGN,” said Top Cow’s Christine Dinh. “It’ll be a flip book of both new issues.”

The graphic novel will arrive in stores Dec. 22, just in time for Christmas. Dinh said the 96-page OGN will retail at $12.99 and will include the content from The Top Cow Holiday Special #1, Jingle Belle: Grounded #1, the previously released Jingle Belle: Santa Claus vs Frankenstein, a 4-page preview of Marc Silvestri’s new project September Mourning and additional bonus material. You can check out a preview of some of the Jingle Belle artwork here.

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