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Conversing on Comics with Vasilis Lolos

When writers and artists aim to break into the industry, the big question they have to ask themselves is if they’re ready for comics. But once cartoonist Vasilis Lolos broke into comics, he found out that sometimes comics wasn’t ready for him.

Lolos had already created a substantial amount of comics in his native Greece before he made his American debut in 2005′s Flight Vol. 2. But once he moved to New York, he quickly built up steam with a series of minicomics like Nebuli and Hats before garnering attention in 2006 as the artist of Image’s Pirates of Coney Island. While that series experienced some delays and ultimately went on hiatus after its sixth issue, Lolos continued pushing his way into comics and partnered with a group of like-minded cartoonists for two award-winning anthologies, 5 and Pixu. That work drew the interest of Marvel and DC Comics, which hired him for one-off stories like a back-up in a Spider-Man title and an issue of Brian Wood’s Northlanders. But after the latter’s release in 2009, nothing.

Next week’s Conan the Barbarian #8 marks the Lolos’ first published comic in more than three years. With this glimmer of new work and talk on his website of more to come, I contacted Lolos to find out where he’s been all this time. What I discovered was the story of his struggles with comics and life, which he’s working through and working into his art.

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Food or Comics? | Gyoza or Godzilla

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.

Conan the Barbarian #7

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, it’d be an eclectic bunch featuring Jesus clones, retired spec-ops workers, environmentalists and Batman. First up would be Punk Rock Jesus #2 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), following Sean Murphy’s big-time foray into writing and drawing. Murphy’s delivering the art of his career, and while the story might not be as great as the art, it still has a synchronicity to the art that few other mainstream books have these days. After that I’d get Dancer #4 (Image, $3.50); Nathan Edmondson seemingly made his name on writing the spy thriller Who Is Jake Ellis?, and this one takes a very different view of the spy game – like a Luc Besson movie, perhaps – and Nic Klein is fast climbing up my list of favorite artists. After that I’d get Massive #3 (Dark Horse, $3.50), with what is disheartedly looking to be the final issue of artist Kristian Donaldson. No word on the reason for the departure, but with a great a story he and Brian Wood have developed I hope future artists can live up to the all-too-brief legacy he developed. Delving into superhero waters, the next book I’d get is Batman #12 (DC, $3.99), which has become DC’s consistently best book out of New 52 era. Finally, I’d get Anti #1 (12 Guage, $1). Cool cover, interesting concept, and only a buck. Can’t beat that.

If I had $30, I’d jump and get Creator-Owned Heroes #3 (Image, $3.99); man, when Phil Noto is “on” he’s “ON!” After that I’d get Conan te Barbarian #7 (Dark Horse, $3.50). I’ve been buying and reading this in singles, but last weekend I had the chance to re-read them all in one sitting and I’m legitimately blown away. The creators have developed something that is arguably better than what Kurt Busiek and Cary Nord started in 2003 and shoulder-to-shoulder with the great stories out of the ’70s. This new issue looks to be right up my alley, as Conan takes his pirate queen Belit back to his frigid homeland in search of a man masquerading as Conan. Hmm, $7 left. Any other Food or Comic-ers want to grab some grub?

If I could splurge, I’d excuse myself from the table dining with my fellow FoCers and get Eyes of the Cat HC (Humanoids, $34.95). I feel remiss in never owning this, so finally getting my hands on the first collaboration between Moebius and Alexandro Jodorowsky seems like a long time coming. I’m told its more an illustrated storybook than comic book, but I’m content with full page Moebius work wherever I can get it.

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Food or Comics? | Mais or The Massive?

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.

Spider-Men #1

J.K. Parkin

With my first $15 I’d get the following: The Massive #1 (Dark Horse, $3.50), X-Men #30 (Marvel, $3.99), Spider-Men #1 (Marvel, $3.99), and Saucer Country #4 (Vertigo, $2.99). That leaves me roughly 50 cents out of my budget. I dunno if it was planned this way or not, but two of Brian Wood’s latest projects, The Massive and his run on the X-Men (of the un-Ultimate variety), kick off this week. We also have the debut of Spider-Men, the crossover that features Peter Parker of the 616 Marvel U meeting up with Miles Morales from the Ultimate-verse. I’ve enjoyed the Miles Morales/Ultimate Spider-Man stories this far, which is the reason I’m getting it. Finally, Saucer Country is the best of the new Vertigo titles, featuring clever writing by Paul Cornell and great art by Ryan Kelly.

Add another $15 and I’d also get Captain America #13 (Marvel, $3.99), Uncanny X-Force #26 (Marvel, $3.99), Resurrection Man #10 (DC Comics, $2.99), and Frankenstein: Agent of Shade #10 (DC Comics, $2.99). Again, with some change left over for a candy bar or whatever. I laughed out loud at the big reveal at the end of the last issue of Captain America, as we learned who the new guy was behind the Scourge mask. I assume this is a What If? comic, along the lines of “What if (name redacted for spoiler reasons) wasn’t lame?” So I have to see this through. I mentioned this weekend on What Are You Reading? that I’d downloaded a whole bunch of the current run of Uncanny X-Force for 99 cents from comiXology, and since then I’ve completely caught up on the book, so I’ll definitley be getting the current issue. Add to that one of the final times I’ll get to see Abnett and Lanning’s Resurrection Man comic (sniff … well, it was probably a longshot anyway, based on how well his last comic did) and the debut of Matt Kindt on Frankenstein, and that rounds out my week of comics.

I don’t really have anything on my splurge radar this week, so maybe I’ll just hold onto the cash and save it for next time.

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Conan artist Ernie Chan passes away at age 71

Veteran artist Ernie Chan, perhaps best remembered for his work in the 1970s on Batman and Conan the Barbarian, passed away Wednesday at age 71. According to cartoonist Gerry Alanguilan, Chan recently had been diagnosed with cancer. His death follows that of fellow Filipino artist Tony DeZuniga last week.

“It’s sad to lose one, but it’s truly crushing to lose so many in such a short amount of time,” Alanguilan wrote on his website. “But Mang Ernie lived a full life. He had accomplished a lot. There was a point in time that he was one of the hottest artists working comics. DC wouldn’t give you the honor of drawing so many cover on their mainstream titles if you weren’t so well regarded. He deserves to be remembered and recognized as someone who contributed positively to the image of Filipinos and their talents worldwide.”

Born July 27, 1940, as Ernesto Chua in the Philippines, he legally changed his last name to Chan after becoming a U.S. citizen in 1976. Chan broke into American comics in the early 1970s drawing short stories for DC Comics’ Ghosts mystery/suspense series before beginning a nearly two-year stint on Batman in 1975 while also penciling Claw the Unconquered and Detective Comics. Under the name Chua, he also served as the publisher’s primary cover artist from about 1975 to 1976.

Moving to Marvel in the late ’70s, he illustrated such titles as Conan the Barbarian, Kull the Destroyer, Power Man and Iron Fist, and inked Sal Buscema’s pencils on The Incredible Hulk.

Chan shifted into animation and the 1990s before retiring in 2002. Funeral services will be held Monday in Oakland, California.

Related: Greg Hatcher showcases some of Chan’s work at Comics Should Be Good.


Food or Comics? | Are you my mutton?

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.

Saucer Country #3

Graeme McMillan

If I had $15 this week, I’d pick up the third issues of what may be becoming my two favorite new series: Saga (Image, $2.99) and Saucer Country (DC/Vertigo, $2.99). The former is easily one of the most enjoyable, most packed books out there right now for me, with Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples firing on all cylinders with the two issues to date, whereas the latter has an enjoyably retro feel that reminds me of the earliest days of the Vertigo imprint in ways that I can’t quite put my finger on but love nonetheless.

If I had $30, I’d grab the new edition of Leviathan (Rebellion, $16.99), a collection of a 2000AD horror story by Ian Edginton and D’Israeli that the creators apparently described as “Agatha Christie meets Silent Hill” about a Titanic-esque cruise ship that disappears in the middle of the ocean, and ends up somewhere else … with no land in sight for more than two decades. Really looking forward to reading this one.

Should I suddenly find enough money down the back of my couch to splurge this week, then I’d hope to find the $29.99 I’d need for the Deadenders trade paperback (DC/Vertigo). I entirely missed the Ed Brubaker/Warren Pleece mod romance comic the first time around, so this collection of the entire series will be a welcome chance to make up for past mistakes.

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Food or Comics? | Pete and mirliton

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.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d first snap up a book I’ve been trying to track down for years: Amazing Spider-Man: Hooky (Marvel, $4.99). This 1986 lost classic features Bernie Wrightson drawing a webhead story featuring monsters and alternate worlds – looks like a real gem. Now to convince Marvel to republish John Paul Leon’s Logan: Path of the Warlord… Next up would be Secret Service #1 (Marvel/Icon, $2.99). I’ll buy pretty much anything Dave Gibbons puts out these days, and seeing him with Mark Millar is bound to be a unique experience. Next up is Saga #2 (Image, $2.99); Brian K. Vaughn is really setting up a world – like a sci-fi sitcom here, with loads of direction to go in. Lastly I’d get Conan the Barbarian #3 (Dark Horse, $3.50). Can I admit I might like this more than Northlanders? Brian Wood’s definitely expanding how people think of him with this story, and Becky Cloonan is making a lot of editors look foolish for not putting her on these kinds of books sooner.

If I had $30, I’d start out with Secret #1 (Image, $3.50). Manhattan Projects seems more up my alley than this story, but Jonathan Hickman’s built up some credit in me to try anything new he puts out even if I’m not too interested. Next up would be Northlanders #50 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), which I’m sad to see go. I think this will be one of those series that achieves more popularity after it’s over, and it’s a shame DC can’t find a way to continue it. After that it would be Glory #25 (Image, $2.99). I was a bit shaky on the story after Joe Keatinge’s first issue, but everything after has really put the pieces into place and Ross Campbell seems to be finding his footing to really land the superheroics of this story. Last up would be Secret Avengers #25 (Marvel, $3.99); Rick Remender’s clearly put his own spin to this series, so much I’m surprised Marvel didn’t use this as a chance to renumber the series… but I’m glad they didn’t.

If I could splurge, I’d throw money at my comic retailer for Pete and Miriam (Boom!, $14.99). Big fan of Rich Tommaso, and he seems to be honing his craft like a knife, creating more pointed and poignant stories here. And Miriam, she’s a real gem.

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Comics A.M. | Viz names new CEO; what happened to comic ads?

Ken Sasaki

Publishing | Viz Media announced that Ken Sasaki, formerly the senior vice president and general manager of the manga and anime publisher, will take over from Hidemi Fukuhara as president and CEO. Fukuhara is being promoted to vice chairman, which apparently involves little of the day-to-day management of the company. [Crunchyroll]

Publishing | Johanna Draper Carlson counts the pages in some recent DC and Marvel comics and finds lots of house ads — and very few paying ones. This raises the chicken-and-egg question of whether the comics publishers are losing interest in selling ads or the advertisers are losing interest in buying them. [Comics Worth Reading]

Digital | Nerdist Industries’ CEO Peter Levin has joined comiXology’s advisory board. [comiXology]

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James Harren to take the second shift on Conan

There doesn’t seem to be any official announcement on this, but it’s right there in the solicitation: James Harren will be taking over from Becky Cloonan as the artist for Brian Wood’s Conan the Barbarian for issue 4. Brian Wood Tweeted that Cloonan will do issues 1-3 and 7-9, and “after that we don’t know yet.” That’s interesting, because Wood and Cloonan were definitely presented as a team, but Cloonan is busy with a lot of things, so who knows.

Anyway, for those who are not familiar with Harren, iFanboy has a short introduction to his work as well as a generous array of samples. As they point out, he has been a professional comics artist for less than two years, having started out with a short story for an X-Men anthology and moving on from there to other Marvel and DC projects before finding his feet in the Mignolaverse at Dark Horse. Cloonan’s new look for Conan has gone down well with a lot of fans, but Harren looks like he will be bringing some interesting visuals of his own to the series.

Food or Comics? | Saga or saganaki

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.

Saga #1

Graeme McMillan

If I had $15 this week, I’d rush to the store as quickly as possible to ensure that I’d be able to get a copy of Saga #1 (Image Comics, $2.99) before it completely sells out. It’s been far, far too long since Brian K. Vaughan has been doing comics, and Fiona Staples is one of those artists who just continually gets better even after starting pretty damn impressively in the first place. It’s not the only must-read launch this week, either; I’m also very excited about Saucer Country #1 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99), Paul Cornell and Ryan Kelly’s mash-up of The West Wing, The X-Files and – judging by this first issue, which I’ve had a sneak peek at – The Invisibles, which pretty much ensures I’ll be on board for awhile. There’s also Marvel’s Avengers Assemble #1 ($3.99), which I’m… curious about more than excited for, in large part because I’ve already seen Bendis’ take on the team for the last few years, so this feels more like “More of That Thing You’ve Already Read!” than “First Issue of A New Series!” but… well, it might be better than I’m expecting, who knows?

If I had $30, I’d think about putting Avengers back on the shelf before picking up Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself Fallout Premiere HC (Marvel, $19.99), the second collection of Kieron Gillen’s remarkably great Thor spin-off. I’ve only recently caught up with the first collection, and loved it, so I’m looking forward to more of the same with this one.

There’s really only one choice to splurge on this week for me: The Womanthology: Heroic hardcover (IDW, $50.00). Not only do I have friends with work in the book, but I was pretty much signed up for this one as soon as I heard about it online. I love well-done anthologies, and I’m ready for this to be one of the best I’ve read in a long time.

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What Are You Reading? with Jamaica Dyer

Conan #1

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew has been reading lately. Today our special guest is Jamaica Dyer, creator of Weird Fishes and Fox Head Stew, which can be read over at MTV Geek. She also recently did a concert report in comic form from San Francisco’s Noisepop for Spin Magazine.

To see what Jamaica and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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Stan Lee Media loses fight for Conan the Barbarian rights

A federal judge has dismissed a bid by Stan Lee Media Inc. to reclaim the rights to Conan the Barbarian, which the failed dot-com briefly held before going into bankruptcy in 2001. However, a bigger legal brawl still lies ahead, when the company appears before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on March 8 to argue it should be allowed to pursue the rights to Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, The Avengers and other lucrative Marvel properties.

Stan Lee Media, which operates independently of its namesake and co-founder — in fact, it’s suing Stan Lee — has struggled since emerging from bankruptcy in November 2006 to regain some of the money and glory from the heyday of the Internet bubble, primarily through lawsuits claiming the improper transfer of intellectual properties.

In the Conan lawsuit, filed in August even as Conan the Barbarian 3D arrived in theaters, the company claimed, in part, that when Conan Sales Co. bought back the rights to the Robert E. Howard characters in 2002, shareholders weren’t notified, and SLM’s interests weren’t properly represented. The complaint also alleged that Arthur Lieberman, Lee’s longtime attorney, committed fraud during the proceedings, and failed to report conflicts of interest. As a result, SLM argued, the transfer of the rights to Conan Sales Co., which subsequently sold them to Paradox Entertainment, should be annulled.

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Food or Comics? | Conan the barberryan

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.

Thief of Thieves #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start with Thief of Thieves #1 (Image/Skybound, $2.99). The gang at Skybound gave me an advance PDF of this issue, and I like it so much I want to hold the physical thing in my hands. Shawn Martinbrough really nails this first issue, and Nick Spencer really puts his Marvel work to shame with this story. Next up I’d get my favorite DC Book – Batwoman #6 (DC, $2.99) – and favorite Marvel book – Wolverine and The X-Men #5 ($3.99). I’d finish it all up with Northlanders #48 ($2.99). I’m not the biggest fan of Danijel Zezelj’s work, but I can’t let up now to see my long-running commitment to Northlanders falter at this point.

If I had $30, I’d dig into Richard Corben’s Murky World one-shot (Dark Horse, $3.50). Corben’s one of those “will-buy-no-matter-what” artists for me that Tom Spurgeon recently focused on, and this looks right up my alley. Next up I’d get Secret Avengers #22 (Marvel, $3.99) because Remender’s idea of robot descendents intrigues me, and then Wolverine and The X-Men: Alpha and Omega (Marvel, $3.99). I didn’t know what to expect from the first issue, and after reading it I still don’t know where this series is heading – but I like it so far. Finally, I’d get Haunt #21 (Image, $2.99). The combination of Joe Casey & Nathan Fox is like a secret code to open my wallet.

If I could splurge, I’d take the graphic novel Jinchalo (D+Q, $17.95) by Matthew Forsythe. I loved his previous book Ojingogo, and this looks to continue in that hit parade.

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It’s Conan vs. Groo in the oddest crossover ever

Conan the Barbarian meets his dumber alter ego in April when Dark Horse presents a four-issue Conan/Groo the Wanderer crossover. While Conan is clearly the brainier of the two mighty warriors, Groo creators Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier are scripting the comic, so Groo will have the home-team advantage. Thomas Yeates is handling the art and Tom Luth the colors. Yeates has penciled other Conan comics as well as Dark Horse’s adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Outlaw Prince.

While April 1 would be a logical release date for a book like this, the chances are that no one would believe it, so it’s due out on April 18.

Interview: Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan on Conan

Conan #1

Dark Horse starts a new Conan series next month with Conan #1, by Channel Zero and Demo collaborators Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan. Based on Robert E. Howard’s “Queen of the Black Coast,” the comic will weave new adventures into Conan’s two-year journey with the notorious female pirate Bêlit, a period barely touched on in the original short story. Comic Book Resources has a preview of the first issue.

I spoke with Wood and Cloonan about their plans for the series, using the classic Howard tale as their framework, and the dynamic between the young Conan and Bêlit.

ROBOT 6: How did each of you first encounter Conan — in the novels, the movie, or the older comics?

Wood: I’m sure it was the Arnold movie that was my first exposure, but not in a really meaningful way. I was 10 when it came out, so I wouldn’t have seen it, but we all played it at recess anyway. Later on, as I started to become more aware of comics, I became aware of Conan as he was drawn by masters like BWS and Frazetta.  Funnily enough, the novels came last.

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Previews: What looks good for January

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Mouse Guard is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.

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

Amulet

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes - With the Flight anthologies done, the all-ages version, Flight Explorer has morphed into this. I expect it to be as lovely as its predecessors and especially like the Mystery Box theme.

Archie

Jinx – J Torres and Rick Burchett’s graphic novel aimed at tween girls.

Kevin Keller, Volume 1 and Kevin Keller #1 – Archie collects the first appearances and mini-series of their major, gay character and also launches his ongoing series.

Ardden

Flash Gordon: Vengeance of Ming – The third volume in Ardden’s Flash Gordon series.

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