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Epic ‘Bartkira’ project is offering a limited-run exhibition book

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More than a year ago, James Harvey took Ryan Humphrey’s idea of a Simpsons/Akira mashup and ran with it, launching an ambitious jam project in which artists — 768 in all — would recreate every page from Katsuhiro Otomo’s pioneering cyberpunk epic using characters from Matt Groening’s beloved animated series. That’s the story of Batkira, a sprawling, loving tribute to both creators that received its own gallery show last month at Floating World Comics in Portland, Oregon.

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Prism Comics opens submissions for 2014 Queer Press Grant

queer press grantPrism Comics, the nonprofit organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender creators, comics and readers, has opened submissions for the 2014 Queer Press Grant.

The grant is awarded to writers/artists or teams self-publishing comic books, comic strips, webcomics or graphic novels with significant LGBT characters and themes; creators don’t need to be LGBT to apply. Entries are judged by the Prism board and past recipients based first on artistic merit, and then financial need, proposal presentation and the work’s contributions to the LGBT community.

The grant is funded through donations from creators and fans. Past winners include Hazel Newlevant, Robert Kirby, Eric Orner and Megan Rose Gedris.

Guidelines can be found on the Prism Comics website. The deadline for proposals is Sept. 1; the recipient will be announced at the Alternative Press Expo, held Oct. 4-5 in San Francisco.

Inaugural MondoCon to feature Mignola, Jock, Darrow & more

mondo logoThe art gallery and online store Mondo has announced the inaugural MondoCon, a Sept. 20-21 event in Austin, Texas, designed to celebrate film, music, art and toys. It will coincide with the first weekend of Alamo Drafthouse’s annual Fantastic Fest.

The initial wave of guests includes such comics artists as Geof Darrow, Francesco Francavilla, Jock, Mike Mignola and Bernie Wrightson. To mark the occasion, Mondo has also announced a Bride of Frankenstein limited-edition print by Mignola, on sale Thursday at MondoTees.com.

“We specifically picked these first 15 to show a sampling of what to expect from MondoCon,” Mondo Creative Director Justin Ishmael explains on the event website. “Not only will we have people that we’ve worked with before, but we’ll also have guys that we’ve been HUGE fans of showing up, too. We want you in the same room as Mike Mignola who is also in the same room as Richey Beckett who has a booth next to Geof Darrow, etc. Picture walking down that aisle and stopping at like every booth. That’s at least the idea and if you do or not is obviously up to you, but if we were to walk into a convention and these guys were all there, it’d be a day long event for me going around bugging everyone. The thing is that we’re 100% fans of everyone in this room.”

MondoCon will feature new artwork and products, as well as panels and special screenings. Tickets, which go on sale Wednesday, cost $35 for one day and $70 for the full weekend.

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Watch Brian Michael Bendis’ TEDxCLE comics talk

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Early last month Brian Michael Bendis returned to Cleveland for the first time in 14 years to speak at a TEDxCLE event at the Cleveland Museum of Art. His nearly 25-minute presentation, “The Little Boxes,” is now available online.

“I was young, and I would read these books, and I became obsessed with the little boxes in the front of the book, the little boxes with the names of the people who were responsible for the experiences I was having,” the writer recalls. “At first I thought I just wanted to see my name in those boxes because I thought it was the coolest place on Earth to see your name. I was a little kid, it seemed really cool to me. But really what was happening was I was experiencing — we’ve all experienced it in some medium — I was experiencing true storytelling for the first time.”

Watch the entire presentation below.

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Why Toronto Comic Arts Festival matters

Raina Telgemeier, Lynn Johnston, and Kate Beaton at the opening panel at TCAF

Raina Telgemeier, Lynn Johnston and Kate Beaton at the opening panel at TCAF

On the opening night of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival, organizer Christopher Butcher articulated a simple and very important vision for the event:

I looked at the people we were already approaching for 2014 last year, and we had an incredibly strong lineup already of people who wanted to participate who were women who were working in the industry with a history or who were fresh faces doing exciting, wonderful material, and we decided that was going to be an unspoken theme, we were going to really try to spotlight, highlight, the work of women in the industry … This isn’t a one-year thing for us. This isn’t just a theme this year, we aren’t going to be going back to anything, I think we have done a good job of showing the diverse faces of the comics industry but we can always be better… I want us to continue to be as inclusive as possible and to include all different kinds of work. I want comics to be the theme of TCAF and that means including everyone who makes comics, and particularly people who are doing a good job.

Then Butcher did something truly amazing: He introduced a panel of three women that was not titled “Women in Comics.” At TCAF, women were simply treated as equals and judged on their merits. And trust me, I walked the halls at the Toronto Reference Library and came back with two bags of comics and graphic novels, so I know: There were no charity cases at TCAF. Every exhibitor, male and female, was top-notch. This is a show that a huge number of people want to be a part of, so organizers can pick and choose. What they did this year was simply choose more women, which makes sense in a field where women have been well represented for many years. (There were plenty of men as well, they just weren’t in the majority as they are at every other show.)

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Marie Severin gets spotlight in ‘The Mirthful Mistress of Comics’

Tuska Cover FinalA comics pioneer, Marie Severin was one of the very few women working in the industry during the Gold Age and Silver Age, first as a colorist at EC and then as a penciler, inker and colorist at Marvel. Now she’s the subject of TwoMorrows Publishing’s upcoming book, aptly titled Marie Severin: The Mirthful Mistress of Comics.

Written by Dewey Cassell and Aaron Sultan, it’s a compendium of Severin’s art, from classic covers and stories to rare, unpublished sketches; it also includes an expansive interview with the 84-year-old artist.

Severin got her start coloring her brother John’s work at EC Comics, but her best-known work was for her Marvel, where she was employed for 30 years as a production artist, penciler, inker and head colorist. She co-created Spider-Woman, and provided cover and interior art for such titles as The Avengers, Captain America, Conan the Barbarian, Crazy Magazine and The Incredible Hulk.

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A call for help for Seth Kushner

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Photographer and comics writer Seth Kushner was recently, and quite suddenly, diagnosed with leukemia — as Hannah Means Shannon relates, he went from seemingly healthy to having the flu to hospitalization, all within two weeks — and now requires a bone marrow transplant.

A celebrated portrait photographer, Kushner is well known in comics circles for his collaboration with writer Christopher Irving on Graphic NYC and on the book Leaping Tall Bounds: The Origins of American Comics. A member of Brooklyn’s Hang Dai Studio, he’s also created numerous photocomix, and collaborated with numerous artists on the webcomic Schmuck, whose print collection was successfully funded last month on Kickstarter.

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This weekend, it’s the Toronto Comic Arts Festival

lynn_johnston_500pxToronto has become Comics Town this week, as the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (aka TCAF) presents an entire week of events capped by a two-day MoCCA-style show this weekend at the Toronto Reference Library.

As it has in previous years, the event has drawn a stellar list of comics creators, including Lynn Johnston and Kate Beaton (who will be doing a kick-off panel tonight, moderated by Raina Telgemeier), Jeff Smith, Trina Robbins, Ed Brubaker, Kazu Kibuishi, Michael DeForge, Darwyn Cooke, Luke Pearson and Moyoco Anno. The list of debut books includes Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer, Michael DeForge’s A Body Beneath, Anno’s Insufficient Direction, Gabrielle Bell’s Truth Is Fragmentary and Box Brown’s Andre the Giant. You can just save this list now and use it as a cheat sheet for next year’s Eisner nominations.

And, recognizing the most important demographic in comics, there will be a full slate of children’s programming on Saturday.

TCAF has an indie vibe, more in the vein of MoCCA and SPX than Wizard World, but with a strong manga component. There are no cast members from The Walking Dead, no Marvel and DC panels, and no booths selling T-shirts or plushies. Cosplay is politely, but firmly, discouraged:

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The Blank Page Project auction to benefit Hero Initiative

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Last year at Comic-Con International, comixology teamed with The Hero Initiative for an event that drew in top industry names to create The Blank Page Project, a massive jam board filled with sketches and signatures, all to benefit the nonprofit organization. One source says the mural is 10 feet by 12 feet, and another says it’s 9 feet by 13 feet. Whatever the case, it’s big, and it’s now up for auction by Heritage Auctions.

Among the contributors to the piece are Tim Bradstreet, Jeffrey Brown, Mark Buckinham, Chris Burnham, Amanda Conner, Colleen Coover, Paul Cornell, Nick Dragotta, Kevin Eastman, Ulisies Farinas, Christos Gage, Sterling Gates, Dave Gibbons, Steven Grant, Lea Hernandez, Phil Jimenez, Denis Kitchen, Ron Marz, Bill Morrison, Jerry Ordway, Jimmy Palmiotti, George Perez, Nate Powell, Norm Rapmund, Stjepan Sejic, Walt Simonson, Bruce Timm, Paul Tobin and Mark Waid.

See the full piece below. Online bidding continues through May 15; the auction will be held May 15-17 in Dallas.

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Bill Finger’s granddaughter says DC isn’t ‘all good’ with family

Bill Finger

Bill Finger

Responding to a recent assertion by a DC Comics representative that “We’re all good” with the late Bill Finger and his family, the granddaughter of Batman’s uncredited co-creator has made it clear that’s not the case.

“I am currently exploring our rights and considering how best to establish the recognition that my grandfather deserves,” Athena Finger said in a statement.

Characterized by biographer Marc Tyler Nobleman as “the dominant creative force” behind Batman, Bill Finger is widely acknowledged with such contributions as the Batmobile, the Batcave, the name Gotham City, Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner Gordon, the basic look of the Dark Knight’s costume, and numerous villains and supporting players. However, because of the contract Bob Kane negotiated with what would become DC Comics, only he receives official credit for the creation of Batman and most of those foundational elements.

Long a sore spot with fans and creators alike, the matter surfaced again last month at WonderCon Anaheim, when participants on a Batman panel were asked their thoughts about Finger not receiving “created by” credit. Larry Ganem, DC’s talent relations director, replied, “We cherish what Bill Finger did, and his contribution to creating Batman. We’re all good with Finger and his family.”

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Comics A.M. | ‘The 99′ creator questions reasons for Saudi ban

The 99

The 99

Publishing | In the wake of the ban in Saudi Arabia of the animated adaptation of The 99 comic, creator Naif Al-Mutawa writes about what he had to go through in the first place to get approval in that country for the Islamic superheroes (one of the steps was the sale of Cracked magazine at a loss so his company would be sharia-compliant to the satisfaction of an Islamic bank). He looks at what led to the fatwa, and concludes by seeking one of his own, posing questions for the clerics who issued the decree. [The National]

Publishing | As part of its five-year anniversary celebration, Multiversity Comics surveys such industry figures as Eric Stephenson, Rachel Deering, Tom Spurgeon and Gina Gagliano about the biggest changes that have taken place during that time, and where comics are headed. [Multiversity Comics]

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Comics A.M. | TOON Books launches imprint for older readers

Hansel and Gretel

Hansel and Gretel

Publishing | I talked with TOON Books founder Francoise Mouly about her new imprint, TOON Graphics, which will feature “visual books” (picture books and comics) for readers ages 8 and up. The line launches with three titles: Theseus and the Minotaur, by Yves Pommaux, Cast Away on the Letter A, by Fred, and Hansel and Gretel, retold by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti. [Publishers Weekly]

Commentary | Former DC Comics senior editor Joan Hilty tackles the issue of sexism in comics and calls for publishers to include more women in their senior editorial rank:. “Women are getting the bestselling books into stores and greenlighting the million-dollar movie franchises, but they’re barely represented among the creative executives who map out the universes and storytelling strategies. That’s where you cement broad-based, long-term loyalty to authors and characters, tap new audiences and trends, and grow readership, without which none of those books or movies would exist.” [The Guardian]

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Longtime ‘MAD’ editor Al Feldstein passes away

al feldsteinAl Feldstein, who as editor steered MAD Magazine to the height of its popularity and influence, passed away Tuesday at his home in Livingston, Montana, The Associated Press reports. He was 88.

Born in 1925 in Brooklyn, New York, Feldstein began his career as a teenager at Eisner & Iger Studio, doing menial tasks initially for $3 a week and then, after World War II, freelancing for publishers like Fox Comics. In 1948, he approached William Gaines, who had become publisher of EC Comics following the death of his father Max Gaines, and began a working relationship that would last for decades.

Although Feldstein started at EC as an artist, he soon wrote his own stories; within a couple of years, he was also editing most of the publisher’s titles. He’s credited with co-creating iconic anthologies like Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Terror, Panic and Shock SuspenStories and helping to develop a stable of contributors — Otto Binder, Will Elder, Jack Davis, Wally Wood, Al Williamson and Bernard Krigstein, among them — whose influence is still felt in the industry.

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Quote of the Day | Advice for female creators: ‘Be fearless’

mara“If you choose to make your gender public knowledge, some readers will be cruel to you. They’ll seem to single your art out more loudly and consistently than any equivalently accomplished male counterpart’s for pillorying. They’ll call your lines ugly, and in the comments section they will call you ugly. Or, they’ll be too kind to you. It won’t matter how unattractive you may think you are, they’ll speak to you too long at conventions, they’ll stare and say you’re even prettier than your art, and that will be worse, because if you can be the target of such bombastic, lecherous praise, then maybe your art is actually just as bad as you’ve been made to feel.

If you choose to make your gender public knowledge, some readers will support you. They’ll support you unfailingly, they’ll class you as a ‘woman creator’ and they’ll ask you to provide sound bites that speak for all women, though of course that’s impossible. They’ll put you on a ‘Women in Comics’ panel at every show, and often that will be the only panel you’re ever on. They’ll buy your work because you’re a woman, just because you’re a woman.”

– artist Ming Doyle, whose work includes Mara, Adventures of Superman and Young Avengers, responding to concerns from an aspiring creator “that women only get jobs from editors because they’re attractive or cute.” While Doyle encourages her to “be fearless” and notes that “editors care more about your quality of work, your timeliness and your professionalism, than any selfie,” she acknowledges that women inevitably face judgments based on their gender and on their looks.

Todd McFarlane offers a glimpse of his 350 rejection letters

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Over the course of his 30-year career, Todd McFarlane has spoken frequently about his lone road into the comics industry, one dotted with more than 700 submissions and 350 rejection letters. If you thought that was an apocryphal story akin to tales of having to walk five miles to school … uphill … both ways, think again.

On his Facebook page, the creator of Spawn shares a few photos from his submission days, featuring a sampling of his rejection letters, including one from former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter, as well as a chart he created to track where he sent the packages, and whether he received responses.

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