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Comics A.M. | Judge rules Sherlock Holmes is in public domain

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #4

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #4

Legal | In a decision that will undoubtedly usher in more Holmes and Watson novels, comic books, movies and television, a federal judge has issued a declarative judgment that the elements included in the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published by Arthur Conan Doyle before Jan. 1, 1923 are in the public domain in the United States. That means creators are free to use the characters and elements from those stories (but not from the 10 published after 1923) without paying a licensing fee to the protective Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Ltd.

The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed early this year by Leslie Klinger, who served as an adviser on director Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes films and with Laurie R. King edited In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of new stories written by different authors. Although Klinger and King had paid a $5,000 licensing fee for a previous Holmes-inspired collection, their publisher received a letter from the Conan Doyle estate demanding another fee; in response, Klinger sued. [The New York Times]

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Michael J. Austin: the artist formerly known as Mick

Mick Austin's cover for Warrior #7

Scotch Corner is the sketch blog of a group of Scottish comic artists that includes regular Garth Ennis/Warren Ellis collaborator Gary Erskine and 2000AD staple Simon Fraser.  To celebrate their blog’s birthday, and to take a break from their regular schedule, every July they feature a series of guest bloggers who’ve included quite a star-spangled list over the last couple of years.  On Saturday their had quite a coup – their guest contributor was the painter Michael J. Austin, known to comic fans of a certain age as Eagle-award winning Warrior, Doctor Who Monthly and 2000AD contributor Mick Austin.

While many comic book artists have moved on to successful careers in other media (such as Troy Nixey becoming a film director, or the countless hordes lost to storyboarding and concept illustration, or Chris Cunningham making music videos, right through to Jamie Hewlett becoming a bona fide pop star), Austin is one of the few who’ve made the leap to the fine art world.  The last time I heard Austin’s name was on press coverage of Prince Charles’ visit to India and Oman in 2002, when he was invited along as the official tour artist.  Austin clearly still has a clear admiration for the craft of comics, though shows no inclination to return to the form (though when you’re keeping such vaunted company, why would you?).

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Six by 6 | Six great superhero comics by unlikely cartoonists

The Death Ray

Apart from all the “new 52″ brouhaha, one of the more interesting and talked about bits of online  was Michael Fiffe’s essay on the delineations between mainstream (i.e. superhero) comics and the alt/indie comics scene. Spinning off of his essay, I thought it would be fun to list my own favorite super-styled tales by folks who usually don’t do that type of material, some of which Fiffe talked about in his essay.

Note: For the purposes of this article I’m deliberately avoiding any of the officially sanctioned productions from the Big Two, namely Strange Tales and Bizarro Comics, just to make it a wee bit harder.

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Six by 6 | Only the end of the world again

Uncanny X-Men #141

Uncanny X-Men #141

Earlier this month ABC News ran a special report called Earth 2100, which imagined a possible “worst case scenario” if the “perfect storm” of population growth, resource depletion and climate change converge, causing catastrophic effects to the planet. The report featured graphic novel-style sequences by Josh Neufeld, Sari Wilson, Joe Infurnari, George O’Connor, Tim Hamilton and Leland Purvis.

It wasn’t the first time that comic book creators have taken a look at a possible future where everything has gone to hell, both scaring and depressing you with its bleak look at what might be in store for us. So in honor of the show, here are six of my favorite apocalyptic doomsday scenarios, as presented by comics past and present …

1. Death by robotsGeekanerd recently did a post on possible robot apocalypse scenarios and how to avoid them, using Battlestar Galactica, Terminator and The Matrix as examples. Another story that falls into that category is the classic Uncanny X-Men story “Days of Future Past.” First introduced in issues #141 and 142, the storyline focused on a possible future where mutants have been hunted almost to extinction by the Sentinels, with the survivors being kept in internment camps. Giant robots = bad, bad things.

I remember reading these issues as a kid and being genuinely freaked out about the fate of the X-Men. It was bad enough finding out that Cyclops, Nightcrawler and many of the others were already dead, but to see Storm, Colossus and Wolverine meet their fates … I took it as canon, actually, that one day the X-Men comic would end with a similar scene, once it caught up to the future those issues portrayed. Of course, I thought Jean Grey was really dead, too, so …

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Collect This Now! Miracleman

Miracleman #13

Miracleman #13

Like JK, the recent discovery of the third issue of Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz’s Big Numbers put me in mind of another much ballyhooed, but equally hard to find Moore series, Miracleman.

Of course, as with Flex Mentallo, there’s little chance this series will ever see print, at least for the nonce. Neil Gaiman, Todd McFarlane and a host of other lesser mortals have been arguing in court and other areas over who owns the character for over a decade now, and resolution seems as distant as the Orion belt.

The fact that the original Eclipse Comics trades and pamphlets are either a) tough to find or b) very expensive only makes the absence of a new collection only more irksome, as Miracleman still holds up remarkably well, despite having to constantly live in the shadow of its bigger and more popular brother, Watchmen.

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