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Conversing on Comics with Rian Hughes

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Comics are more than just drawing pretty pictures and great muscled physiques. They’re about telling a story, through sequences of images but also through the image itself. And British artist Rian Hughes has spent years figuring out how to tell a story, in sequential art as well as in standalone images, package designs and even fonts.

After bursting onto the comics scene as an artist in Escape and 2000AD, Hughes expanded his skills to become a designer and illustrator for comics in England, Europe and the United States. He went on to design a number of logos and mastheads for DC Comics, Marvel and Valiant, and his work on Wildcats 3.0 and Invincible Iron Man proved to be high-water marks for comic book covers. Image and Knockabout Books recently began reprinting some of Hughes’ early comics work, and this summer will see the release of an artbook chronicling his portraits taken from London’s underworld burlesque scene.

For this week’s “Conversing on Comics,” I spoke with Hughes about his forthcoming art book and other upcoming projects, and received a look at his past work, including a never-before-seen set of designs he created for Invincible Iron Man.

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Conversing on Comics with Dan Goldman

COC Dan Goldman

Location, location, location. It’s said those are the three important things when it comes to real estate, and cartoonist Dan Goldman knows that more than just about anyone.

Born in Detroit, raised in Miami and coming of age in New York City, Goldman spent the past few years living in São Paulo, Brazil, before returning late last year to New York. A longtime proponent of digital comics, he was among the founders of Act-I-Vate, and launched his current comic series Red Light Properties in 2010 on the website of book publisher Tor. But recently Goldman decided to hitch his boxcar to a different train when he jumped to upstart digital publisher Monkeybrain Comics to continue his 300-plus page run on that title.

Red Light Properties is all about location (location, location), but in a supernatural sense, as it follows a Miami real estate agency whose specialty is to survey, repair and re-sell distressed homes. But these aren’t your normal condos; they’re possessed by the ghosts of dead former tenants. Jude Tobin, the man behind RLP, is a clairvoyant whose powers only come to life when he’s “under the influence,” so to speak, and his associated family and busniess partner have to deal with his problems while also handling their own. It’s as if William S. Burroughs wrote Ghost Whisperer, but you know, with even more hallucenigenics.

I reached out to Goldman to find out more about this new era for Red Light Properties, but also to get his perspective on being an American cartoonist living with Brazil, and the story that took him there and brought him back.

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Joe Keatinge on Euro comics, collaboration and ending ‘Glory’

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Have you ever worked with someone who loves what they do so much that it’s infectious? That’s a solid description of Joe Keatinge, who writes Marvel’s Morbius: The Living Vampire, along with Glory and Hell Yeah at Image. He’s also someone with a restless love for comics in all of its forms.

Keatinge has been involved in the business for going on nine years, breaking in as a colorist before segueing to a staff position at Image. which took him from managing the publisher’s inventory to marketing its books. After overseeing the successful PopGun anthology, he  shifted into writing comics himself with the double-barreled successes of Hell Yeah and Glory. It’s his work on the latter series that brought him to the attention of Marvel and DC, who enlisted him for Morbius and issues of DC Universe Presents. Through it all, Keatinge has been an outspoken advocate for the medium.

In our interview, Keatinge talks about his place in the industry as well as his far-ranging interests, delving into his creator-owned work (including collaborations with Frank Cho and James Harvey) and breaking down the perceived walls between different areas of comics.

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Conversing on Comics with Greg Capullo


Greg Capullo is one of the hardest-working people in comics. Fans who follow the Batman artist online or meet him at his frequent convention appearances soon discover he’s unrestrained, with boundless energy, carrying a deep appreciation for the fans who buy his comics, the creators he’s worked with and those that paved his way.

For this week’s “Conversing on Comics,” I talked with Capullo about Batman, as well as his career from his days at Marvel to Spawn and his five year-hiatus from comics. Along the way we discover that his grandmother was a Terminator, Scott Snyder is his brother and Todd McFarlane is the Todd Father.

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Conversing on Comics with Nate Bellegarde

When Image Comics Publisher Eric Stephenson came up with the idea for Nowhere Men, he knew not just any comic artist could handle the project. Luckily for him, Nate Bellegarde isn’t just any comic artist.

Based in Boston, Bellegarde clawed his way into comics at an early age, making his professional debut at age 16 with a back-up strip in Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore’s Battle Pope. He continued his association with Kirkman, providing back-ups for early issues of Invincible with Benito Cereno before segueing to their own standalone series with Hector Plasm. Bellegarde kept busy doing the first volume of Tim Seeley’s Loaded Bible before being enlisted by Kirkman for Invincible spinoff books like Brit and Invincible Presents: Atom Eve & Rex Splode. His art had the crisp, clear style of his colleagues Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley, but his linework betrayed a more subversive subtext. Each of his previous projects seemed to capitalize on part of the skill set Bellegarde had been honing over the years, but never quite captured all of it at once — until Nowhere Men.

Mixing the interpersonal conflicts of science projects like The Right Stuff with more esoteric fiction constructs like the best of Franco-Belgian comics (and a side of British Invasion-era music), Nowhere Men is an uncommon, and uncompromising, piece of work. With three issues on stands and the fourth due March 6, I spoke with Bellegarde about Nowhere Men and its role in his pursuit of a life in comics.

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Conversing on Comics with Terry Dodson

Terry Dodson has made a name for himself as one of comics’ most impeccable artists, recently coming off a two-year run on Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men and doing a number of high-profile shorter assignments on Avengers, Avenging Spider-Man and Defenders. Unbeknown to most, however, is that Dodson has been producing creator-owned projects on the side, such as Songes (titled Muse in the United States). But in 2013 he’s moving this creator-owned focus front and center.

When we spoke earlier this month, Dodson addressed his decision not to renew his exclusive agreement with Marvel so he could devote more time to his own work, and opened up about Vouve Rouge (“Red Widow”), a rollicking espionage/celebrity story he’s creating with French writer Xavier Dorison, as well as other potential projects down the road.

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Conversing on Comics with Dave Stewart

He’s one of the most prolific creators in comics, but odds are only a small segment of his audience knows him by name. One of the foremost colorists in the industry, Dave Stewart is in demand as a collaborator for today’s top artists, and one of the most versatile players on the comics scene. He’s also dominated the Eisner Awards’ coloring category, winning seven of the past nine years.

I reached out to Stewart because I’m an admirer of his work and, because frankly, we don’t hear nearly enough from him. We talked about his place in comics, and his role as frequent collaborator with the likes of Mike Mignola and J.H. Williams III. I also asked about his early ambitions to become penciler, and the potential of trying that again some day.

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Conversing on Comics with Jerry Holkins and Robert Khoo

What do you do when you’ve created a comic book series that’s become more successful than you ever imagined? Branch out. It’s what Robert Kirkman did once The Walking Dead established itself as a hit, and in the webcomics world Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade have been doing the very same thing — and their creation keeps getting bigger. And last summer, when their $250,000 Kickstarter campaign generated double its goal, they included some ambition stretch goals — one of which is coming true next month.

In February, Penny Arcade will launch Strip Search, a reality/competition television series in which 12 cartoonists live together in a house and compete to win a $15,000 cash prize and space in Penny Arcade‘s Seattle offices for a year, complete with support from the company with merchandise, marketing and infrastructure.

Described by Krahulik as “Hell’s Kitchen for web cartoonists,” Strip Search isn’t a new idea — CBR did Comic Book Idol for several years — but rather a new format. The show, which is being produced by the comedy troupe/video studio LoadingReadyRun, will feature 12 up-and-coming cartoonists including indie artist Erika Moen. Filmed late last year, Strip Search will debut in February at Penny Arcade’s PATV and will also appear in some unannounced other venues. For more I talked with Penny Arcade‘s Jerry Holkins, along with Robert Khoo, the comic franchise’s president of operations and business development.

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Conversing on Comics with Rafael Albuquerque

Rafael Albuquerque knows his way around comics. Although he’s best known for his years working on titles like Blue Beetle and American Vampire, the Brazilian artist got his start with an Egyptian company, but was quickly recruited by BOOM! Studios and DC Comics. His style is one that people quickly take notice of, for its gleaming individualism but also its sound base in composition and storytelling.

With his long-running series American Vampire (with writer Scott Snyder) going on hiatus this year, Albuquerque is ready to branch out. I talked with him just as the new year began, and he revealed several interesting morsels, including a stint writing and drawing Batman, the first official look at an American edition of his Brazilian comic Tune 8, and he teased a new project he’s doing this year at Vertigo.

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Conversing on Comics with Warren Ellis

One of the strongest voices in comics over the past 20 years has been Warren Ellis, a write whose impressive body of work ranges from Next Wave: Agents of H.A.T.E. and Transmetropolitan to Global Frequency and Planetary to Fell and FreakAngels. In 2012, however, that voice was largely absent from the medium. For the past few years, Ellis has split his time at his time between writing comics and, increasingly, prose novels such as 2008′s Crooked Little Vein and commentating on society and culture for magazines like Wired and Vice. On Tuesday, Ellis’ second prose novel Gun Machine was released by Mulholland Books, combining his fascination with the layered history of cities with crime noir. I reached out to Warren on Tuesday and we corresponded by email to discuss the future of his career, of comics, and his place in it all.

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Conversing on Comics with David Aja

Rough around the edges but as precise as a Swiss clock. It’s an apt description for the Marvel character Hawkeye, and also the work of series artist David Aja.

Born and raised in Valladolid, Spain, the same town Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes called home, Aja earned a college degree in illustration as was on his way to a career in magazine illustration before he followed his childhood ambition: comics. After a prosaic debut in the Marvel anthology X-Men Unlimited, Aja grew by leaps and bounds before becoming the signature artist of the cult-hit series The Immortal Iron Fist with writers Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction. After the conclusion of his run, Aja did a series of one-off stories for titles like Secret Avengers, Daredevil and Wolverine: Debt of Death while he and his wife added two children to their home already filled with animals. This year, Aja and Fraction reunited for another series, this time taking on classic Avenger (and newly minted movie star) Hawkeye in a self-titled series that focuses on the archer’s life when he’s not working as one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.

After last week’s stupendous one-off story in Hawkeye #6, Aja seems on top of his game. And what better time to get inside his head and find out what he thinks about comics and his place in it. In our conversation, we go over his time on The Immortal Iron Fist and Hawkeye, his views on original art, and also his idea of creative teams and what his formula is for making a great comic.

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Conversing on Comics with Brian Wood

This has been a year of change in comics — for creators, for individual titles, for companies and for the industry at large. For Brian Wood, it was professionally one of his most volatile years since he quit his day job as a designer to work in comics full-time. It saw Wood end his twin creator-owned titles at Vertigo (DMZ and Northlanders), end his exclusive contract with DC Comics, and begin a new era mixing creator-owned with an unprecedented (for him) number of work-for-hire books

As we stand on the edge of this year and peer into the next, Wood is looking to build on 2012 projects like Conan the Barbarian, The Massive and Ultimate Comics X-Men with a new creator-owned series, Mara, debuting next week from Image Comics, and then on Jan. 9 launching his highest-profile project to date: Star Wars, a highly anticipated Dark Horse monthly set between the events of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and featuring familiar characters like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo. Brian Wood Month redux? Perhaps.

Comic Book Resources has interviewed Wood about each of his upcoming projects, so in this conversation I’m able to focus on the big picture, addressing his career and the context of his projects. Wood and I discuss changes at DC that led to his departure, what could have been had he stayed, and his plans both inside and outside of comics.

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Conversing on Comics with Andy Diggle

In any entertainment field, the only thing more difficult than breaking through and scoring that first hit is doing it again and again. And in comics, one of the people I’ve marveled at for his ability to top his previous hit and reinvent himself, all while staying true to himself and his style, is writer Andy Diggle.

He’s done a lot during his 15 years in comics: He helped to turn around then-flagging 2000AD with a back-to-basics approach. He dusted off a forgotten set of DC Comics characters and re-made them into a popular Vertigo series with The Losers. He gave readers a modern vantage point for DC’s archer Green Arrow. He took Marvel’s Daredevil to the darkest point. And at this year’s New York Comic Con, he was the belle of the ball in terms of announcements with four new titles, and several more already in the works.

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Conversing on Comics with Ben Abernathy

Writer Gail Simone calls Ben Abernathy “one of the best editors/idea men in the business,” and over the past 15 years — through his time at Dark Horse, Marvel, WildStorm, DC Comics and now digital publisher Madefirehe’s pushed the boundaries of what can be done in the medium. He was part of Marvel’s move into trade paperbacks and graphic novels, and shepherded WildStorm’s hard sci-fi and superhero work. WildStorm gave way to DC Digital, where Abernathy helped to break the mold of how comics are read, and that continues at Madefire, which publishes serialized creator-owned comics online and via mobile devices.

In addition to discussing Abernathy’s work at Madefire, I asked the longtime editor about his time at WildStorm, where he took over for Scott Dunbier, and his thoughts on the imprint’s collapse in 2010.

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Conversing on Comics with Ron Perazza

For the past 18 years, Ron Perazza has worked in and around the comics industry in virtually every facet of the medium. He’s best known for spearheading DC Comics’ first major foray into original webcomics content with the celebrated but sadly defunct Zuda initiative, but now he’s in a different place — but still doing what he’s always done: pushing to get comics in front of as many people as possible.

After working for 12 years at DC and briefly at digital-comics platform comiXology, Perazza is  pushing innovation in comics formats and delivery systems as a consultant for others and with his own initiatives. One of those is Comic Book Think Tank, an idea incubator of sorts for Perazza and collaborator Daniel Govar to examine and execute comics in a digital world. Their first release was the comic Relaunch, with more planned. I talked with Perazza about the future, and what led him down the path to where he is today.

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