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Comics A.M. | Three IDW comics make their Madefire debut

Art by Dave Gibbons

Art by Dave Gibbons

Digital comics | IDW Publishing released its first batch of digital comics on the motion-comics platform Madefire this week. The selection includes partially animated My Little Pony, Star Trek and Transformers comics, which sell for $1.99 each. Jeff Webber, IDW’s vice president of digital publishing, noted that because Madefire has a partnership with DeviantArt, the books are being exposed to “an incredibly broad network of illustration fans.” To commemorate My Little Pony’s Madefire debut, Dave Gibbons drew the image at right “to show that Friendship IS Magic!” `[Publishers Weekly]

Passings | Cartoonist Jack Matsuoka, who chronicled life in the Poston, Arizona, internment camp in his book Camp II, Block 211, has died at the age of 87. , Born in the United States to Japanese parents, Matsuoka was a teenager when his family was sent to internment camps in Salinas, California, and then Poston. After leaving the camp he was drafted and served as an interpreter for the U.S. Army in occupied Japan. He went to college on the G.I. Bill and worked as an illustrator and cartoonist for many years. Camp II, Block 211 was based on sketches he did while living in the camps and set aside for many years; his mother found them and encouraged him to share them with the public. They were put on exhibit in San Francisco and then collected into the book, which was first published in 1974. A revised edition was released in 2003. [The Rafu Shimpo]

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Remembering Elmore Leonard and his ’10 Rules of Writing’

elmore leonard

Although prolific crime author and screenwriter Elmore Leonard didn’t have a direct connection to comic books, it’s clear from the number of tweets about his death today at age 87 that he influenced a number of comics writers. Of course, labeling Leonard a “crime author” undoubtedly does him a disservice, as he wasn’t restricted by genre; his earliest works were Westerns, like his 1952 short story “Three-Ten to Yuma,” which has been adapted twice for the big screen.

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Comics A.M. | Mark Millar and the subversion of the superhero

Nemesis

Nemesis

Creators | Ahead of the premiere of Kick-Ass 2, Abraham Reisman profiles Mark Millar, with an emphasis on his subversion of the genre — and the new prominence he’s about to achieve with the films based on his comics: “By decade’s end, he’ll have had more of his creations translated into movie form than any comics writer other than Stan Lee.” The piece also includes criticism of his work, with Colin Smith observing, ““Millar does indeed have a history of producing work which represents less powerful groups in an insensitive, and often deeply insensitive, manner. There are massive contradictions between his words and actions as a private citizen and the apparent politics of some of his books.”[The New Republic]

Conventions | Matt Arado looks forward to this coming weekend’s Wizard World Chicago Comic Con (it’s actually in Rosemont) with some creator interviews and a look at the way the con has evolved over the years. [Daily Herald]

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Comics A.M. | Digital’s role in ‘resuscitating’ comics industry

comiXology

comiXology

Digital comics | Financial-services company The Motley Fool touches upon how digital has helped to boost the comics industry, rather than undermine print sales as some predicted it would. “Digital has not to anyone’s observation pirated the sales of comics. It looks like just the opposite,” writer and charts-watcher John Jackson Miller tells the website. And then, because it’s The Motley Fool, the story veers off into what investors can learn from digital comics — specifically, “three forces [that] conspired to transform digital from a threat into a catalyst”: quality, format and access. [The Motley Fool]

Creators | Brian K. Vaughan talks about producing the CBS sci-fi thriller Under the Dome and writing Saga as well as his digital comic The Private Eye. His take on Saga: “I definitely wanted to write about the experience of fatherhood and parenthood while also recognizing that’s extremely boring for most people. How do you talk about these mundane topics in an exciting way? Hopefully setting this story in a wacky sci-fi fantasy universe has given us room to tell this story with some visual spectacle and just Fiona Staples being awesome.” [USA Today]

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Critic, editor, gentleman: Remembering Kim Thompson

kim thompson

It’s kind of impossible to overstate the influence Kim Thompson had on American comics. As co-publishers of Fantagraphics, he and Gary Groth transformed the way people thought about the medium, both in the pages of The Comics Journal and in the kinds of comics they published. If any one publisher can be regarded as the singular entity (and let me be clear, I’m really wary about staking that sort of claim) that made not just fans but the general public take notice and say, “Oh, hey, comics really are an art form and capable of greatness,”  it was these guys.

As you might have heard, Kim Thompson died Wednesday morning after being diagnosed with lung cancer. I thought I’d try to cobble together a few words about Kim’s legacy. (And I hope you don’t mind me calling him by his first name; although we were only casual acquaintances at best, it just feels weird to refer to him in anything but familiar terms.)

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Comics A.M. | Silver Age artist Dan Adkins passes away

Art by Dan Adkins

Art by Dan Adkins

Passings | Silver Age artist Dan Adkins died earlier this month at the age of 76. Adkins, who began with self-published zines before becoming a freelance illustrator, served as Wally Wood’s assistant. As a member of Wood’s studio, he was one of the original artists for T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents. Adkins was a prolific penciller and inker for numerous publishers, from DC Comics and Warren Publishing to Harvey Comics and Marvel, notably drawing 132 covers for the latter. He talked in detail about his career, and working with Wood, in this interview with Alter Ego. [News from ME]

Kickstarter | Jeff Yang analyzes why Jonathan Coulton and Greg Pak’s Code Monkey Save World Kickstarter, which started with a single Tweet, was destined for success, and he talks to both creators about how it came to be. [Speakeasy]

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Comics A.M. | Moulinsart launches Tintin app; Jesse Santos dies

The Adventures of Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin

Digital comics | Moulinsart, the company that holds the rights to Herge’s works, has released the complete Tintin comics in digital form. The iOS app is free, and it looks like the comics are $5.99 each, which is pretty reasonable. The catch is that they are all in the original French; it doesn’t appear as if translations are available yet. [Idboox]

Passings | Filipino komiks creator Jesse Santos died April 27 at the age of 83. Santos began his career in 1946 as an artist for the first serialized comic in the Philippines, Halakhak, and moved to the U.S. in the 1960s. He drew the sword-and-sorcery character Dragar the Invincible and took over from Dan Spiegle as artist for The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor. [Komikero Dot Com]

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Zachi Telesha, comics writer, passes away at age 12

Zachi-Telesha

When you know you don’t have a lot of time, you prioritize.

That’s what Zachi Telesha did. In August 2008, age 7, the Allentown, Pennsylvania, youth was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Telesha set himself a series of personal goals, and he died this week, at age 12, a published comics writer.

Telesha was a fifth-grader at McKinley Elementary School when the publisher Rodale, a corporate sponsor of the school, learned of his illness and his desire to write a comic. He spent five months working with Rodale staffers and teachers from his school to produce the graphic novel, Hero Up!, which features four superheroes — one of whom, Venom Transporter, was based on Telesha himself. “He can get bit by the most poisonous snake and spider at the same time repeatedly and still just get stronger,” Telesha explained in a YouTube video.

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‘Truth’ writer Robert Morales passes away

truth1Writer Robert Morales, who collaborated with Kyler Baker on the 2003 Marvel miniseries Truth: Red, White & Black, passed away this morning in his Brooklyn home. He was 54.

“We spoke on the phone for many years, at least once a week and often more. I am shattered,” author Samuel Delany wrote in a Facebook post announcing Morales’ death. “His many friends will miss him deeply. He had agreed to be my literary executor, and the idea that he would pre-descease me never entered my head. For me and many others he was an indispensable friend. To say he will be deeply missed is an incredible understatement.”

A longtime entertainment journalist and former arts editor at Vibe, Morales had worked with Baker on satirical cartoons for the magazine before the two reunited for Truth, published during a period when Marvel was taking creative risks with such comics as Grant Morrison’s New X-Men, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix, and Ron Zimmerman and John Severin’s Rawhide Kid, and its short-lived Tsunami imprint.

Controversial almost from the moment it was announced, Truth uses the Tuskegee Experiments as inspiration to re-examine the history of the Super-Soldier serum, depicting a regiment of black soldiers who undergo medical experiments during World War II in an attempt to recreate the lost formula that produced Captain America.

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George Gladir, co-creator of Archie’s Sabrina, passes away

GeorgeGladirGeorge Gladir, the longtime Archie Comics writer who created Sabrina the Teenage Witch with Dan DeCarlo, passed away Wednesday, the publisher confirmed.

A 2007 recipient of the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing, Gladir began working for Archie in 1959, initially penning one-page gags for Archie’s Joke Book before moving on to other titles, including Archie’s Pal Jughead, Archie’s Girls Betty and Veronica and Archie’s Madhouse. It was in that last title, in 1962, that he and DeCarlo introduced Sabrina, the well-meaning witch who became a sensation, inspiring two animated series, a television movie and a live-action sitcom.

“I think we both envisioned it as a one-shot and were surprised when fans asked for more,” Gladir recalled in a 2007 interview. “We continued to do Sabrina stories off and on in Mad House until 1969 when we were flabbergasted to hear it was to become an animated [TV series].”

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Comics A.M. | ‘Philémon’ creator Fred dies at age 82

Philémon

Philémon

Passings | French cartoonist Theodor Friedrich Otto Aristidès, aka Fred, passed away Tuesday in a Paris hospital at age 82. He was best known for Philémon, his surrealistic comic about a French farm boy who fell down a well into a fantasy world akin to Wonderland. Fred was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême in 1980, and had been the oldest living recipient. [L'Observateu de Beauvais]

Creators | John Layman, who’s writing  the 900th issue of Detective Comics (No. 19 in the New 52 continuity) talks about his plans for that and his creator-owned series Chew, and contrasts the two: “Well, the cases are weirder in Chew. There is an element that’s the same – you introduce a conflict, and then you have a detective with a certain skill set resolving it. … Batman’s just happen to be gadgets and fists. I guess if there’s a formula in the skeletal layer, it’s probably the same.” [Hero Complex]

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Comics A.M. | ‘MAD Magazine’ artist Bob Clarke passes away

Illustration by Bob Clarke

Illustration by Bob Clarke

Passings | Bob Clarke, one of the original artists for MAD Magazine, passed away Sunday of complications from pneumonia. He was 87. Best known for his “Believe It or NUTS!” parodies, Clarke actually began his career at age 15 as an uncredited assistant on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not comic strip before joining the Army, where he worked for Stars and Stripes. At MAD, he also drew “Spy vs. Spy” for many years, and illustrated the famed January 1961 back cover congratulating John F. Kennedy on his election (the front featured Richard Nixon; the editors were hedging their bets). [The News Journal]

Creators | Charles Soule talks about taking the reins of DC Comics’ Swamp Thing: “Swamp Thing isn’t just a horror book by any means — it’s also a book about superhero action and philosophy and humor. This is a title that’s open to just about anything.” Soule’s plans include new supporting characters and short story arcs that build up to a bigger structure. [USA Today]

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Comics A.M. | Marvel’s Axel Alonso on rise of Latino superheroes

Miss America Chavez from "Young Avengers"

Publishing| Marvel Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso talks about bringing more Latino characters — and more diversity in general — to the Marvel lineup: “People out there reading our comic books are of all sizes, creeds and colors and it’s our responsibility to make them feel included. This isn’t some PC initiative, this is capitalism. This is about supply and demand.” [Fox News Latino]

Passings | Webcomics and minicomics creator Luisa Felix (Candy Blondell) has died at the age of 60. [The Comics Reporter]

Creators | Grant Morrison discusses winding up his run on Action Comics: “Symbolically I’m not a big fan of dealing with politics in superhero comics because I think it diminishes both sides of the argument, but I do have my own take on things. I’ve got my own politics and so they do tend to find their way in. And really for me, its more symbolic, the way story winds up to tackle all those issues and looks at them through the perspective of Superman and Red Kryptonite and weirdness. So it’s gone underground. I think the early Superman was very much more aligned with the anti-establishment, anti-authoritarian current, because I think when Superman started out that he was what entered into.” [Comics Alliance]

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Comics A.M. | Burglars make off with $10,000 comics hoard

Crime | The burglars who broke into Flea Market Comics in Mobile, Alabama, left the cash register alone but stole $10,000 worth of comics, according to owner Stephen Barrington. The thieves cut three locks off Barrington’s storage units and replaced them with a combination lock, presumably so they could come back and get more. “It just left me deflated,” he said of the theft. “People would come in just to look at the covers on them because they were such a various period from the ’30s to the present and like I said anything on a display; they took.” [Fox 10 TV]

Passings | Kiichi Toyoda, the first editor-in-chief of the Japanese manga magazine Shonen Sunday, died Jan. 10 at the age of 87. Shonen Sunday is the home of Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha and Ranma 1/2 and Mitsuru Adachi’s Cross Game. [Anime News Network]

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Retailer Gordon Lee passes away

Gordon Lee, the Georgia retailer who famously fought off charges of distributing materials harmful to minors, passed away Sunday following complications from a series of strokes. He was 54.

The popular owner of Legends in Rome, Georgia, Lee was arrested in 2004 after participating in a trick-or-treat event in which thousands of comics were given away for free. Among the books was Alternative Comics #2, which contained an excerpt from Nick Bertozzi’s graphic novel The Salon depicting a nude Pablo Picasso in a non-sexual context. The comic accidentally was given to a minor, whose parents filed a complaint with the police. Although Lee acknowledged the mistake and offered to make a public apology, he was arrested and charged with two felony counts of distributing material depicting nudity or sexual content and five misdemeanor counts of unlawful disposition of materials to minors. Several of those counts didn’t name victims.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund became involved with the case in early 2005, challenging the constitutionality of the law as well as the counts that didn’t name victims. Subsequently, the felony charges and two misdemeanor counts were dropped. However, the case trudged on, with charges dropped and then refiled, hearings postponed and then, in November 2007, a mistrial was declared before opening statements could be finished. Finally, in April 2008, Lee’s case was dismissed entirely.

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