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Read comics all weekend without breaking the bank

With Labor Day weekend upon us, now is a good time to stock the virtual longbox with some digital comics. We reported the other day that Image has made 20 of its #1 issues free on comiXology; here’s a roundup of some other free’ n’ cheap digital comics to check out over the holiday.

Centsless Books is a website that rounds up all the free Kindle books on Amazon, and it has a dedicated section for comics and graphic novels. There’s a preview of Batman: Earth One up there, and a lot of first issues of different indy series. Some of the graphic novels aren’t really — at least one book I checked was prose not a graphic novel, and Little Nemo’s Wild Sleigh Ride is a picture book that uses Winsor McCay’s illustrations (which are in the public domain). Well worth checking out, especially if you’re a First Second fan, are the two Between the Panels books, which are promotional pieces put out by Macmillan, with creator essays, character sketches and side stories, all related to different First Second graphic novels. Aside from that, it’s a pretty mixed bag, but one that looks like it will be fun to rummage around in. These Kindle comics will also work on the Kindle iPad and Android apps.

Infinity is a free iPad fanzine from Panel Nine, which has published Eddie Campbell’s Dapper John and David Lloyd’s Kickback as standalone iPad apps. The inaugural issue includes an interview with Lloyd, a preview of Dapper John, a roundup of digital-comics news, a couple of app reviews, art by Simon Russell, and an interview with PJ Holden, the creator of Murderdrome, a short comic that was booted from the iTunes store for being too violent (it’s actually a spoof). It’s a nice collection and well worth the effort of clicking that iTunes button.

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Quote of the Day | ‘An absolute blight on modern culture’

"Watchmen" panels re-lettered using Comic Sans

“What really bugs me is the letter ‘I’ in it because in comic books you only use the capital letter ‘I’, which is the one with the crossbars on it, for the first person pronoun. You never use it as a capitalisation of a word or within a word but I believe in Comic Sans that is the only letter ‘I’ that is available. So the whole thing always looks wrong to me. I think it’s a blight, an absolute blight on modern culture.”

Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, whose lettering for the landmark 1986 miniseries helped to inspire
the widely reviled font Comic Sans, on the typographical terror he unwittingly helped to unleash on the world.

Editor Ben Abernathy leaves DC Comics for Madefire

Ben Abernathy, who left DC Comics last week after more than a decade with the company — most recently as digital editor — has joined Madefire, the innovative motion-comics company launched last year by Ben Wolstenholme, Liam Sharp and Eugene Walden.

“About two years ago Ben [Wolstenholme] and I realized there would be a point very early on where Madefire needed a full-time editor – if all went to plan!” Sharp tells ComicBooked.com. “We started to draft a wish-list – and it barely got past one! Ben Abernathy!”

Abernathy, who worked briefly for Dark Horse and Marvel, was senior editor of WildStorm until the imprint was closed in 2010 amid a corporate restructuring and he was moved with other staff to DC’s West Coast digital division. “… Ultimately, the industry is heading to a predominantly digital delivery and that’s not a reflection whatsoever on the direct market or the print publishers–it’s just a reality based on technology and the evolving audience,” Abernathy says in a Q&A on the Madefire website. “From the position I held at DC, I had the opportunity to see some of the reading tools being developed for the industry, and from the moment I saw Madefire’s work, I could tell they were ahead of the curve. Way ahead. And you’re right: I wouldn’t be answering these questions if I didn’t believe that 100 percent and wasn’t committed to doing everything possible to help facilitate this next step.”

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What Are You Reading? with Caleb Goellner

Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our guest today is Caleb Goellner, pug lover and senior editor of ComicsAlliance.

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

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Food or Comics? | Sage or Saga

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 #6

Chris Arrant 

If I had $15, I’d first double-down on creator-owned comics with Butcher Baker, Righteous Maker #8 (Image, $2.99) and Saga #6 (Image, $2.99). I’m glad to see Joe Casey and Mike Huddleston back on Butcher Baker after a hiatus in which I feared it was no more, and I’ve just pulled out #1-7 to get me back up to speed. I’m thinking that taking hallucinogenics would make me enjoy this comic more. On the other side, Saga #6 is flat-out amazing in the most conventional way (despite the unconventional setting). Aliens, ghosts and babies, and yet Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples bring it all together. At this point I’ve shifted into the The Walking Dead mode of reading – no point in reading about what’s ahead, as I’ll just buy it blindly on the great comics they’ve done so far. After that creator-owned two-fer, I’d give Marvel the rest of my money with Uncanny X-Force #29 (Marvel, $3.99) and Avengers vs. X-Men #10 (Marvel, $3.99). I think Marvel’s finally found a suitable replacement for Jerome Opena in artist Julian Totino Tedesco, and I hope he’s locked in to finish out this arc. And speaking of Rick Remender’s work, I spent about 15 minutes conversing the other day about how and why he should’ve been enlisted into Marvel’s Architects and worked into Avengers Vs. X-Men. While the group-written approach takes some getting used to, I’d love to see Remender do an issue of this. In Avengers Vs. X-Men #10 (Marvel, $3.99) however, we see Ed Brubaker taking the lead and showing the Phoenix Force Five venturing into K’un L’un for what seems like the Empire Strikes Back moment of the series.

If I had $30, I’d turn back in all my $15 purchases except Saga #6 and spend the recouped $25-plus dollars and get Hulk: Season One HC (Marvel, $24.99). I’ve never been the biggest Hulk fan, but seeing the previews of Tom Fowler’s art on this has won me over. Fowler, like the above mentioned Tedesco, is one of Marvel’s hidden gems and this might be the launching pad for him to (finally) get some recognition. And for me to get some good comics. Fowler SMASH!

If I could splurge, I’d do the boring choice and simply use it to buy all the single issues mentioned in the $15 section and be able to also afford Hulk: Season One HC. Easy, breezy, beautiful, comics boy.

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What Are You Reading? with Jimmy Palmiotti

Dark Horse Presents #13

Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our guest today is writer and artist Jimmy Palmiotti, who you know from All-Star Western, Monolith, Phantom Lady, Unknown Soldier, Creator-Owned Heroes, Queen Crab and countless more.

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

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Post-Con blues, and other assorted news

Another day, another guest artist on Scotch Corner:Today it’s a massive gallery of work by the underrated Top Cow regular Matt Timson. My favorite is his take on Rom, Space Knight for a Bill Mantlo fund-raiser. As Matt points out, “in the comics, Rom was forever banging on about having given up his humanity to become a Spaceknight, but this was the first time I’d ever thought about what that actually meant – and the horror involved.”

(Plenty more art and links below, not all of which is safe for work.)

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Quote of the Day | Disposable vs. dark

“Sadly, the lesson that was gained from these books was not that comics didn’t need to be hacked-out, disposable, interchangeable stories but could be well written and relevant. Instead what happened was every superhero comic, whether it lent itself to the transformation, or not, was made grim and gritty, which meant more violence, more sex. more trying to fit the superhero world into the real world.”

John Rozum, putting the Grim and Gritty Era into historical context.

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Madefire launches app with new Dave Gibbons interactive comics

Madefire, the company Dave Gibbons mentioned in his recent interview with us, this morning launched a free iPad app with new motion comics by the Watchmen co-creator, Mike Carey, Liam Sharp, Robbie Morrison and others.

The Madefire App debuts with the first episodes of the “Motion Books” Treatment: Tokyo and Treatment: Mexico City, by Gibbons, Kinman Chan and Robbie Morrison, and Mono, by Ben Wolstenholme and Sharp. Subsequent episodes will be available twice a month. There are also previews of future comics by Carey and David Kendall, Haden Blackman and Gary Erskine, and others.

“Madefire is igniting a new era by creating a modern, dynamic reading experience and bringing that to the millions of iPad users around the world,” Gibbons said in a statement. “It is exciting to be able to bring this robust storytelling into the 21st century while also democratizing the ability to publish comic books.”

Watch a video demonstrating the “immersive experience” of the Motion Books below. The Madefire App is available for free from iTunes.

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Dave Gibbons talks digital comics and ‘very exciting’ new platforms

Dave Gibbons

When most fans think of Dave Gibbons, his seminal work with Alan Moore on Watchmen is likely the first thing that comes to mind. However, the acclaimed artist and writer prefers to look toward the future, even brushing aside a question about Before Watchmen, the sprawling DC Comics miniseries that’s been the topic of so many recent conversations, with a terse, “I have no comment on that.”

During Kapow! Comic Convention, Robot 6 spoke briefly with the legendary creator about his views on digital comics, DC’s New 52 and the state of the industry.

Robot 6: You’re seen as a huge influence, but who excites you in the field these days?

Dave Gibbons: Asking an open ended-question like that is very dangerous, ‘cause invariably I’ll think of people who I greatly admire when you’re not here. I can say in general what I find interesting at the moment are the creator-owned books. I’m really pleased with all the things like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where people can get finance to do their own comics. The Internet allows people to very quickly build up a large audience. It allows publishing without huge overheads, which is very positive. I love the fact that in today’s comic world, classic work is readily available in brand-new formats, such as the IDW Artist’s Edition series.

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The Before Watchmen controversy in a nutshell

Brian Truitt has a nice backgrounder on the Before Watchmen controversy at USA Today that allows both sides to state their case. If you’re just tuning in, on the eve of the sprawling prequel’s debut, this will save you a lot of time. The basic question: Should DC Comics create a prequel to Alan Moore’s Watchmen despite his opposition to the project?

DC Co-Publisher Dan DiDio: “The strength of what comics are is building on other people’s legacies and enhancing them and making them even stronger properties in their own right.”

Former DC writer Chris Roberson: “Watchmen is a book, complete in one volume, with a beginning, middle and end. The continued attempts to recontextualize it as a ‘franchise’ or a ‘universe’ are, I think, part of the problem.”

Darwyn Cooke, one of the Before Watchmen creators, also observes that Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons does support the new books, and that his voice should not be ignored. (Cooke is also spotlighted in a separate article about the Before Watchmen: Minutemen miniseries, which debuts Wednesday.)

Still not heard from: Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum and J.M. Barrie on how they feel about Moore’s reuse of their characters in Lost Girls.

Comics A.M. | Ailing artist Oliver Nome’s call for help

Wonder Woman, by Oliver Nome

Creators | Freelance artist Oliver Nome, who has worked for Wildstorm and Aspen but has no health insurance, is suffering from a brain tumor, and his dealer is selling off his art to help pay for the surgery. [Blog@Newsarama]

Publishing | John Jackson Miller looks at the shape of the comics market in 1995, before Diamond Comic Distributors had a virtual monopoly on distribution. [The Comichron]

Awards | The voting deadline for this year’s Eisner Awards is Monday. [Comic-Con International]

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Food or Comics? | Batman: Death by dessert

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.

Wolverine and the X-Men #11

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start things out with ­Wolverine and the X-Men #11 (Marvel, $3.99). I was worried this series’ intersection with Avengers Vs. X-Men might put this book in a tailspin, but from the preview it looks copacetic. Aaron has real amazing grips on these characters despite being less than a dozen issues in, and Nick Bradshaw has quickly come from being a surprising follow-up to Chris Bachalo to arguably being more in line with the book than Bachalo himself. Next up for me would be Walking Dead #98 (Image, $2.99), the low march toward #100. After that I’d get FF #18 (Marvel, $2.99) for something arguably better than its parent book Fantastic Four. I hope this title lives on past Hickman’s run on the book, because it’s succeeded in being more than the stereotypical kids team book. After that, I’d snap up Supercrooks #3 (Marvel/Icon, $3.99). Leinil Yu is on a real high here, doing art that goes up against his great High Roads and Silent Dragon era work. Mark Millar’s story is really optimum Millar-style work, but Yu’s storytelling and rendering here are the best in some time.

If I had $30, I’d buy one additional thing: Empowered, Vol. 7 (Dark Horse, $16.99). Adam Warren has really blossomed since his days doing Dirty Pair, and Empowered is a great second act showing the seedy side of superheroes. Adding to that, Adam Warren keeps up a great online presence over on DeviantArt and releases all sorts of magnificent process sketches to go along with the book.

If I could splurge, I’d spend my grocery money this week on Batman: Death By Design (DC, $24.99). Like some sort of Mister X meets Dark Knight crossover, this book is an interesting work especially in contrast with the day-to-day of DC with New 52. I still think of Chip Kidd more as a designer than a writer despite reading his first novel, but I hope this breaks that in my mind and allows me to see him for both his creative avenues.

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Before Watchmen is ‘a love letter’ to Moore’s creation, Dan DiDio says

Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 variant cover by Jim Lee

Just as the initial reviews of Before Watchmen begin to trickle in, DC Comics Co-Publisher Dan DiDio takes to The Guardian to defend the sprawling prequel, which he calls “a love letter” to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and to respond to the writer’s scorching criticism of the project as “completely shameless.”

“Honestly I can understand why he might feel the way he does because this is a personal project to him,” DiDio tells the U.K. newspaper. “He has such a long and illustrious career and he’s been able to stand behind the body of work he’s created. But quite honestly the idea of something shameless is a little silly, primarily because I let the material speak for itself and the quality of the material speak for itself.”

He reiterates that DC won’t “shy away from the controversy on this – as a matter of fact we’re embracing it because we have belief in the strength of the product and stand behind it.”

DiDio also dismisses assertions by Moore that DC is “still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago,” saying that, “all the characters in all the universes and all that we do in comics, we’re constantly building on other people’s lores and legends. […] Realistically some of Alan’s strongest works at DC outside of Watchmen were built off of characters like Swamp Thing which was created by Len Wein, Superman, Batman, so many of our great characters he’s worked on and they helped build his career.”

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How artists’ contributions to the creation of comics are overlooked

Watchmen co-creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (Photographer unknown)

Since the dawn of the medium, comic books largely have been the creation of writers and artists working hand-in-hand to produce the characters, stories, titles and universes you follow each week. Recently, however, lawsuits by comic creators against publishers — and sometimes other creators — have raised the question of where, when and how a comic is truly created. Are they the product of the writer, with the artist simply tasked to illustrate the story based on instructions laid out in a script or outline? Or is it a communal effort, with writer and artist both providing unique contributions to the creation of the character and setting, each serving as a storyteller in the planning, coordination and draftsmanship of the actual comic pages? In recent years, comics have become a writer-centric medium, for better or worse, but artists continue to play a crucial, if sometimes overlooked, role in the design of characters and transformation of the writer’s scripts into, you know, comics.

In an interview with ICv2.com, Howard Chaykin relayed a story about how an unnamed writer views an artist’s contribution as “absolutely nothing to do with the creative process in comics.” “I am of the belief that the artist does 50 percent of the ‘writing’ in comic books,” said Chaykin, who’s worked as a writer and artist for decades. “I think the guy is plum crazy. It staggered me in its limited understanding of what comic books are about.”

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