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Comics A.M. | Viz Media brings its manga library to iBooks

Viz Media

Viz Media

Digital comics | Viz Media announced Wednesday it has brought its entire library to iBooks. Viz manga are already available on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and its own app, so this pretty much completes the set. [ICv2]

Crime | Manga creator Takaaki Kubo was arrested Tuesday on charges of threatening a city councilor in the town of Amagasaki. Kubo, whose series Bakune Young was published in North America in the early 2000s by Viz Media, was arrested after police traced a threatening e-mail message to his home computer. [Anime News Network]

Creators | Art Spiegelman has been the subject of four retrospectives so far this year, the latest at the Jewish Museum in New York. Charles McGrath talks to him about what he calls “The Great Retrospection,” as well as his tobacco addiction and, oh yeah, comics. [The New York Times]

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Bitstrips, aka those annoying DIY comics invading Facebook

Bitstrips-Corey-Robot6

And the Eisner for Best Bitstrip goes to…

Comics are truly entering the mainstream: They’ve become an annoying Facebook app.

Bitstrips allows its 20 million users to create comic strips of themselves as status updates, with a friend or as a greeting car; they can then be shared via the Facebook app or the new mobile app. And no, “20 million” is not a typo. Potentially some 20 million people are interacting with the language of comics in a way  most never do – trying to create and clearly tell a story. Sure, that story is usually the equivalent of an inane status update, and “creating” is used very liberally here, as users choose from a finite number of backgrounds and settings that they customize.

Despite looking like a cross between Bratz dolls and Wii avatars (ie, bright and garish, squarely aimed at pre-teens), Bitstrips sprung forth from a comic artist. According to Know Your Memes, the mysterious Ba (surname unknown) was tired of re-drawing characters for a comics project, so he created a system where he could re-use customized characters and settings instead of drawing them from scratch every time. He teamed up with four other guys — graphic designers and comic fans — and launched Bitstrips at the 2008 South By Southwest in Austin. Bitstrips for Schools launched soon after as an educational tool, but things didn’t start to take off until 2011, when they caught the attention of Cartoon Network.

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Designer of Bayeux Tapestry, ‘first known British comic strip,’ identified?

bayeux tapestry

A historian believes he has identified the designer of the Bayeux Tapesty, an 11th-century embroidered cloth once characterized by Bryan Talbot as “the first known British comic strip.”

Embroidered on linen with colored woolen yarns, the 230-foot “tapestry” consists of about 50 scenes depicting the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Although some scholars have long theorized it was commissioned by Bishop Odo of Bayeux, half-brother of William the Conqueror, the name of the actual designer has been elusive.

But now Medievalists.net reports that in a paper published in the journal Anglo-Norman Studies, Howard B. Clarke credits Scolland, abbot of St.Augustine’s monastery in Canterbury, with the work.

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Comics A.M. | Graphic novel sales rise again in book market

The Walking Dead, Vol. 18

The Walking Dead, Vol. 18

Graphic novels | Graphic novel sales are up 6.59 percent in comics shops, and they are also up in bookstores, according to the latest issue of ICv2′s Internal Correspondence. Sales have been increasing in the direct market for a while, but this is the first uptick in bookstore sales since the economy crashed in 2008. There seem to be several factors, including the popularity of television and movie tie-ins — the success of DC’s graphic novel program linked to Man of Steel is singled out — and a turnaround in manga sales. The article winds up with lists of the top properties in a number of different categories. [ICv2]

Digital comics | Here’s today’s news article on Crunchyroll’s new digital manga service, which offers same-day releases of 12 Kodansha manga titles for free and an all-you-can-eat service for $4.99 a month. Tomohiro Osaki interviews Japanese publishing insiders, who are upfront about the fact that this is an attempt to compete with pirate sites, and translator Matt Thorn, who says that better translations on the official site may lure readers away from scanlations. [The Japan Times]

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Charles Schulz is No. 3 on list of top-earning dead celebrities

charles schulz

With Halloween just around the corner, Forbes has released its weird (and probably a little morbid) annual list of the top-earning dead celebrities, led by Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley. But at No. 3, for the second year in a row, is the late Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.

The cartoonist, who passed away in 2000 at age 77, is estimated to have earned $37 million this year — or at least his creations did. They’re owned by Peanuts Worldwide, a joint venture formed by Iconix Brand Group has partnered with the heirs of Charles M. Schulz, which in 2010 bought the rights to Peanuts from E.W. Scripps Co. (it was part of a $175 million deal for the entire United Media Licensing division, which includes Dilbert and Fancy Nancy). The property’s 1,200 licensing agreements generate annual retail sales of more than $2 billion worldwide.

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Comics A.M. | Watterson & Thompson discuss their art exhibit

Bill Watterson's tribute to "Cul de Sac"

Bill Watterson’s tribute to “Cul de Sac”

Creators | Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson and Cul de Sac cartoonist Richard Thompson discuss their mutual admiration and their excitement about exhibiting their work together next spring at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at the Ohio State University. [Comic Riffs]

Legal | Chinese cartoonist Wang Luming, who uses the nom de plume “Rebel Pepper,” was arrested Wednesday, one day after he posted an online cartoon critical of police who were facing off with protestors rather than helping flood victims in the city of Yuyao. Residents have been critical of the government response to the flood, which put 70 percent of the city underwater, but a recently passed law suppressing online commentary has muted the criticism on social media. The Beijing Times (part of of the traditional media, which is heavily controlled by the Chinese government) claimed that Wang was arrested not because of the cartoon but because he spread a false rumor online (Reuters reports the police told his girlfriend it was because he forwarded a post about a woman and her child who starved to death in the floods). He was released Thursday and tweeted, “When I have time, I’ll tell you about the interesting night I spent at the police station.” [Foreign Policy]

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‘Dear Mr. Watterson’ documentary debuts new trailer

dear-mr-watterson

Gravitas Ventures has debuted a new full-length trailer for Dear Mr. Watterson, the Kickstarter-funded documentary that explores the influence of cartoonist Bill Watterson and his beloved comic strip Calvin and Hobbes.

It’s a six-year passion project by director Joel Allen Schroeder, who raised $25,000 in 2010 so he, producers Christopher Browne and Matt McUsic, and cinematographer Andrew P. Waruszewski could interview a slew of cartoonists, editors and fans, and then another $96,772 in 2012. Dear Mr. Watterson, which had its festival premiere in April at the Cleveland International Fan Festival, will debut Nov. 15 in theaters and On Demand.

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‘Calvin and Hobbes’ collections to make e-book debut

ANDREWS MCMEEL PUBLISHING CALVIN AND HOBBESLess than six months after bringing Calvin and Hobbes, Pearls Before Swine and others to mobile phones and tablets with its GoComics app, Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal Uclick have announced they’ll release three collections of Bill Watterson’s beloved comic strip as e-books.

It’s another digital first for Calvin and Hobbes, which made its (legal) debut on mobile devices in April with GoComics.

The three collections, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes (1988), The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes (1990) and The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes (1992), will go on sale for tablet format only on Nov. 12 for $12.99 each. The hardcover and paperback editions have sold a combined 10 million copies.

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Comics A.M. | What digital comics, industry need to do next

comiXology

comiXology

Digital comics | Declaring that “the mainstreaming of digital publishing is nearly complete,” veteran technology writer Andy Ihnatko outlines three major steps the industry still needs to take: a move by Dark Horse to comiXology; the adoption of ePUB as an industry standard; and the abandonment of digital rights management. “We should be grateful to DRM,” Ihnatko writes. “‘What about piracy?’ wasn’t Marvel or DC’s only qualm about digital publishing, but it was a question that needed to be addressed before the major publishers could go all-in. But now that comiXology is up and running, and people have been ‘trained’ to use the new infrastructure, DRM is becoming less and less valuable with each passing quarter.” [Chicago Grid]

Digital comics | For readers only now discovering digital comics, Jeffrey L. Wilson provides a guide that covers the basics, from what they are to where they can be found and how much they cost. [PC Mag]

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‘I always want to be joking’: a chat with ‘Reggie-12′s’ Brian Ralph

reggieGiant robots and wisecracking cats. They’re such great cartoon tropes that you wonder why someone hasn’t tried to mesh them together before now. But mesh they do in Brian Ralph’s Reggie-12, an episodic comic strip about an constantly plucky, ever-optimistic Astro Boy-like robot who constantly is saving the city he lives in from danger (usually in the form of other, bigger robots), only to face withering indifference from everyone back  home, especially the afore-mentioned cat.

Originally serialized in the pages of Giant Robot magazine and other assorted comics anthologies, the Reggie-12 strips have now been collected in a handsome, oversize, hardbound book from Drawn and Quarterly. Ralph was at the Small Press Expo this year, signing copies of his new book and generally helping man the D& Q booth. I pulled him away for a bit and, once we found a place to sit down, peppered him with questions about Reggie-12.

Chris Mautner: When was the first appearance of Reggie-12? Do you remember when you started these strips?

Brian Ralph: You know, I don’t. I had done comics in Giant Robot earlier before Reggie-12. There was this thing I did called The Legend of Giant Robot. It wasn’t funny. It was trying to be an ongoing serialized comic. I just didn’t have the storytelling chops yet. I ended it and wanted to start something new. That’s when Reggie-12 started and it was such a better fit for the magazine. It’s hard to do a daily strip in a magazine that comes out every month. I got so much more story packed into a smaller space. I don’t know the exact year [it began] though. Ten years ago?

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Comics A.M. | IDW’s ‘My Little Pony’ comics hit 1 million in sales

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Publishing | Sales of IDW Publishing’s My Little Pony comics, in single-issue and graphic novel format but not counting digital, have topped 1 million copies. (It does really well in the iBookstore — there are multiple issues in the Top 10 every week — although it seldom registers on the other digital comics platforms.) IDW’s Ted Adams says this is because it’s such a great comic, but shrewd marketing such as offering a special Scholastic Book Fair edition with a bonus pony figure probably helped a lot. [ICv2]

Digital comics | The motion-comics platform Madefire has secured $5.2 million in funding. In July it announced agreements with four comics publishers — IDW, BOOM! Studios, Top Cow and iTV — and the first IDW comics came out in August. Madefire also has a partnership with DeviantArt. [Publishers Weekly]

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Comics A.M. | Dark Horse turns to Random House for bookstores

Dark Horse

Dark Horse

Publishing | This may seem a little inside-baseball, but it’s actually pretty significant: Dark Horse will switch from Diamond Book Distributors to Random House for book-market distribution, effective June 1, 2014. The publisher is sticking with Diamond for comics, but a lot of its line has appeal outside the direct market — the Avatar graphic novels, the Zelda guide — and Dark Horse wants to expand its presence in bookstores. This also makes for an interesting consolidation of manga distribution, as Random House also distributes Kodansha Comics (with which it has a strong business relationship) and Vertical books. [ICv2]

Comics | Superheroes may rule on television and in film, but comics continue to be a niche medium. The Associated Press reporter Melissa Rayworth talks to a comic-shop owner whose customers skulk in on the down low, an opera singer whose friends are surprised she reads comics, and Comics Alliance writer Chris Sims, who does a good job of putting things in perspective. [ABC]

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‘Beetle Bailey’ falls victim to military budget cuts

beetle bailey

After 63 years, military cutbacks have finally hit Camp Swampy.

Stars and Stripes, the newspaper serving the U.S. military community, announced this week it has dropped Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey from its daily print edition as the average number of pages shrinks from 40 to 32 due to a number of financial factors that include Department of Defense sequestration cuts and a declining readership.

The newspaper also expects to eliminate an estimated 40 staff positions worldwide next year amid a reduction in print operations “as it tries to accelerate a shift toward digital distribution.”

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Comics A.M. | For Banned Books Week, a look at ‘corrupting’ comics

From "Superboy" #2 (1949)

From “Superboy” #2 (1949)

History | Michael Dooley celebrates Banned Books Week with a look at the comics singled out by Dr. Fredric Wertham in Seduction of the Innocent as particularly corrupting of our youth; Dooley juxtaposes scans of the pages with Werthem’s commentary. [Print]

Creators | Lynda Barry is now an assistant professor of interdisciplinary creativity in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) as well as the UW-Madison Department of Art; she was an artist in residence at the university last year. [University of Wisconsin-Madison News]

Creators | Congressman John Lewis, co-author Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell talk about their involvement in the graphic novel March. [Free Comic Book Day]

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Comics A.M. | LeHeup exits Valiant; Syrian cartoonist may be dead

Valiant

Valiant

Publishing | Jody LeHeup, who joined Valiant in May 2012 as associate editor, has left the publisher, and will focus on his writing career. However, he noted on Twitter, “I am open to discussing editorial work as well.” LeHeup previously worked for four years at Marvel, where he edited such titles as Deadpool, X-Force and the Eisner-nominated Strange Tales before being let go in October 2011 during a round of layoffs. [Twitter]

Creators | Tom Spurgeon pointed out a disturbing paragraph in this article about the dangers of being a political cartoonist in the Middle East: Syrian cartoonist Akram Raslan hasn’t been heard from in months and may be dead, according to Robert Russell of the Cartoonists Rights Network International, which has been advocating for Raslan’s release from prison. Raslan was arrested last year, and Russell was told his trial was delayed and then that he had been killed. [CNN]

Comics | The Venezuelan government is issuing illustrated versions of the country’s constitution to all school children, and plans are already under way for another edition that will be in comics format. [Foreign Policy]

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