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The Middle Ground #76 | In the wee small hours of the morning

If ever there’s been a time where I’ve been tempted to have a column literally consist of “[Name of Comic]. You guys. [Name of Comic Repeated for Emphasis],” then it’d be today, because Ganges #4. You guys. Ganges #4. Continue Reading »


Eddie Campbell, Leela Corman defend Craig Thompson’s Habibi

Okay, now I’m picturing the authors of Alec and Subway Series standing shoulder to shoulder, swords in hand, fending off the critical Ringwraiths as Craig Thompson cowers Frodo-style in the background. So yeah, the headline’s a bit dramatic. But in light of critic and scholar Nadim Damluji’s thoughtful and widely linked critique of Thompson’s massive new book Habibi, I thought it worthwhile to direct you to a pair of acclaimed cartoonists’ responses.

Damluji argued that in treating the Orientalist art and literature of the past as just another genre to play with, Thompson ended up perpetuating some of the very stereotypes he presumably set out to subvert when he decided to set his near-future fantasy in a fictional but still recognizably Arab/Islamic culture — particularly where sexuality and male-female relationships, often used by Western nations as a pretext for action against Middle Eastern ones, are concerned. Eddie Campbell responds that Thompson’s interest in these topics, or more generally Love, are consistent; the Middle Eastern trappings of the tale are just the vehicle Thompson selected to get where he’s going:

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What Are You Reading? with Kevin Colden

Animal Man #1

Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Today our special guest is Kevin Colden, whose comic work includes Fishtown, I Rule the Night, Vertigo’s Strange Adventures and Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper, among others. He’s also the drummer for the band Heads Up Display.

To see what Kevin and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, click below …

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Get great comics at cheap prices from the Top Shelf Massive $3 Sale

It’s an annual tradition to look forward to: The alternative comics publisher Top Shelf has unveiled its “Massive $3 Sale,” in which they’re pricing down their catalog to near-ridiculous levels — in many cases $3, and in many more cases just one lousy American dollar. For very little money, you can rack up a big chunk of one of the best comics publishers’ best comics.

What would I get? At the $3 level, Kolbeinn Karlsson’s The Troll King — a surreal collection of intertwined short stories that for once lives up to the overused, rarely true label “fairy tales for grown-ups” — is basically a must-buy. I’d also be sure to pick up Andy Hartzell’s Fox Bunny Funny, an unpredictable and impeccably cartooned funny-animal allegory about conformity and self-discovery. Lilli Carré’s remarkably assured debut collection of satirical short stories, Tales of Woodsman Pete, is another no-brainer. If you’re interested in rounding out your Alan Moore collection with some of his more off-the-beaten-path efforts, you can get all eight issues of his underground-culture zine Dodgem Logic, his prose novel Voice of the Fire, and his poetry/photography collaboration with José Villarubia The Mirror of Love for three bucks a pop. And you can pick up all three issues of Jeffrey Brown’s one-man action anthology series SulkBighead & Friends, a return to his genuinely funny superhero parody characters; Deadly Awesome, an 84-page mixed martial arts fight comic; and The Kind of Strength That Comes from Madness, a grab bag of sci-fi/fantasy/action/adventure spoofs — for a buck apiece, which is a steal.

Beyond the deepest discounts, you’ll rarely find the publisher’s heavy (literally–these books are big) hitters priced as low as they are now: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell, Campbell’s Alec: The Year’s Have Pants omnibus, and Jeff Lemire’s complete Essex County are all $20, while Craig Thompson’s Blankets is just $22.50.

And hey, if you’re totally new to all of these books, so much the better. Maybe DC’s New 52 initiative has you in an “I’ll try anything for $3 a book” mood? If so, put a few bucks aside and get some full-fledged graphic novels for that price or lower. You’ll be glad you did.


Bill Sienkiewicz reveals his side of Alan Moore’s Big Numbers saga

from Big Numbers #3 by Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz

from Big Numbers #3 by Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz

It is perhaps the greatest comic never published. Intended to be a 12-issue miniseries ambitious and complex enough to make Watchmen look like Wizard of Id on an off day, Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz’s Big Numbers was a Joycean look at life in a small English town as a big-box retailer prepared to set up shop. But this grand fiction-as-fractal-geometry experiment only managed to produce two published issues in 1990 before hitting a massive delay during work on issue #3, losing Sienkiewicz, moving from Moore’s Mad Love publishing imprint to Kevin Eastman’s Tundra, tapping Sienkiewicz’s then-teenaged assistant (and current reclusive Pim & Francie creator and alt-horror superstar) Al Columbia to take over, losing Columbia and all the pages he’d completed, and finally shuddering to a halt.

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Six by 6 by 6 | Van Jensen’s six favorite horror comics & movies

House by Josh Simmons

Editor’s note: As a part of Robot 666 Week, we welcome guest contributor Van Jensen, writer of Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer and its upcoming sequel.

by Van Jensen

I was on a panel with Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson to discuss horror comics earlier this year, and I admitted that I didn’t really like horror as a genre. I can’t even see a trailer for Saw MCXVII (or whatever number they’re up to) without feeling repulsed. But Steve and Bernie talked me down from the ledge. The problem isn’t so much with the horror genre, it’s with the trend of comics and movies that use gore as a substitute for real fright. So here’s my list of favorite horror comics and films, and they’re all projects that rely heavily on atmosphere and thrills (the real hallmarks of horror) rather than buckets of blood.

1. House, by Josh Simmons.

Simmons’ debut graphic novel is a relatively simple story, with three teenagers exploring a giant old house in the woods. Things go wrong, which is predictable, but in an unpredictable way. Simmons uses no words through the entire story, but his real accomplishment is utilizing the design of the pages to deliver an increasingly claustrophobic, disorienting and terrifying story.

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Buy tons of Top Shelf books for $3

You can buy this book for three bucks

You can buy this book for three bucks

Goodness gracious, look at all the terrific titles that are on sale for $3 over at Top Shelf Productions’ website. That’s some 70 in all, including books by Alan Moore, Jeffrey Brown, James Kochalka, Scott Morse, Liz Prince, and Renee French. Another 30-plus comics and graphic novels are also on sale for suitably impressive amounts — the complete Lost Girls from Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie and the complete Alec: The Years Have Pants by Eddie Campbell may be purchased for just $25 and $20 respectively, for pete’s sake. Top Shelf’s $3 Sale lasts through Friday, September 24th, so get ‘em while the gettin’s good!


What Are You Reading?

Blood's a Rover

Blood's a Rover

Hello and welcome once again to What Are You Reading?, where the Robot 6 crew talk about the comics and graphic novels that they’ve been enjoying lately. Our special guest this week is comics journalist and critic Dirk Deppey of Journalista and The Comics Journal fame.

To see what Dirk and the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately, read on …

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What Are You Reading?

X'ed Out

X'ed Out

As the final days of summer start to waste away and you’re looking for something to enjoy before hitting the books for school, there’s no better place to find some good stuff to read than right here in our weekly What Are You Reading? column.This week our guest is journalist/blogger Heidi MacDonald, of The Beat and Publishers Weekly fame.

To see what Heidi and the rest of the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …

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Comics College: Eddie Campbell

Fate of the Artist

Fate of the Artist

Comics College is a monthly feature where we provide an introductory guide to some of the comics medium’s most important auteurs and offer our best educated suggestions on how to become familiar with their body of work.

Welcome to this month’s edition of Comics College. Today we’ll be looking at the body of work of one of the medium’s most unique creators, Eddie Campbell.

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My MoCCA haul

Sean's MoCCA 2010 loot

Sean's MoCCA 2010 loot

I came to shop.

Seriously, I was just about as excited for this past weekend’s MoCCA festival as I’ve ever been for any comic convention. And it wasn’t because of the guests or the panels or even getting to see so many of my friends and colleagues — it was because of the comics. The best thing about a small-press show is your ability to dig into the tables and come away with enough treasures to keep you reading happily for weeks. Proceeding from the top left of the picture above in as logical a fashion as I can manage, here’s a rundown of my personal treasure trove…

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Six by 6: The six most underrated comics of 2009

1 Alec hardcover

At the end of any given year, when critics and fans pull together their list of favorites and best-ofs, there are always the books that get left behind, the titles that, for one reason or another, don’t get the critical acclaim and discussion they deserve. We’ve all got our list of books we feel were unjustly ignored. The following is my own list of six titles I think were underrated or insufficiently praised. It skews heavily towards the Fanta/D&Q side of things, but such are the vagaries of my interests at the moment. Feel free to argue about my choices or make some of your own in the comments section.

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Memento mori: An interview with Eddie Campbell

1 Alec hardcover

Sometime soon (hopefully next week) Diamond will be releasing Eddie Campbell‘s Alec: The Years Have Pants to a comic book store near you. In a year chock full of great, original work and important re-releases and rediscoveries, this has to be one of the most important books of 2009. I know that statement might come off to some as shallow hyperbole, but it’s a risk worth taking.

For the the unfamiliar, Pants collects all of Campbell’s autobiographical Alec stories (except for The Fate of the Artist, which was published by First Second) in one big (hardcover or softcover) volume. Since the early 1980s, the artist and writer has been chronicling his life’s adventures through his barely disguised alter ego, starting as a feckless young man in the King Canute Crowd to the successful cartoonist and family man in After the Snooter. It’s saying something to call these stories his most significant and stellar work, considering he also collaborated with Alan Moore on From Hell and created the elegant Bacchus series. One hopes this new collection (and the new material found therein) provides the opportunity for a re-examination and analysis of this impressive body of work.

I had the opportunity to talk with Campbell late last August over email about the book. This was my second time talking to him and he proved to be as gracious and thoughtful over the computer as the phone, if not more so.

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Everyone’s A Critic: A round-up of comic book reviews and thinkpieces

Exit Wounds

Exit Wounds

• Eddie Campbell has been offering one great critique after another lately, first on
Asterios Polyp and David Mazzuchelli’s ability to convey a sense of place, and then on Rutu Modan’s Exit Wounds (“The impressive thing about Exit Wounds is that there is a keen organizing intelligence at work at every single level of it, from top to bottom.”

Jeet Heer ruminates on the concept of the “proto-graphic novel,” i.e. graphic novels that were published before the term became ubiquitous.

• It’s a few days old, but this review of R. Crumb’s Genesis adaptation by Bill Kartalopoulos is still well worth your time.

• I don’t always link to Tucker Stone’s “Comics of the Weak” round-up, but this one’s worth noting, as he mimics the prose of “controversial French writer Michel Houllebecq,” which leads to bits like this one on Batman:

Gotham City has but two types of people-those who wreak violence, and those who have violence wreaked upon them. The first type are all men, for the most part, although the occasional lesbian is permitted participation, as long as she has previously received approval from whomever currently holds the title of most cruel. (Said participation is usually considered an important story point, further cementing the little respect or interest that these stories have for women–there are few other places in fiction where “the bitch can stay” is considered interesting or dynamic.

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Thin wallets, fat bookshelves: A publishing news round-up

hardware• Ladies and gentlemen, Dwayne McDuffie has an announcement:

The very first Milestone comic will finally be collected, 17 years after its original publication. HARDWARE: THE MAN IN THE MACHINE will reprint Hardware #1-8, featuring the character’s origin, and first adventure. The Direct Market (comic book store) release date hasn’t been announced yet, but it tends to be about a month earlier than in the general market.

• In other news, Archaia announced plans to start a new $9.95 hardcover line of books, where one graphic novel will be released each quarter at that low price. The plan kicks off in August with the release of The Engineer: Konstrukt.

• Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson says the Norewegian artist Jason’s next project will be a repackaging of his previous books in the new Low Moon format. The first book, Almost Silent, will collect You Can’t Get There From Here, The Living and the Dead, Tell Me Something and Meow Baby! The next book, What I Did, will tentatively collect The Iron Wagon, Shhhhh and Hey Wait. Thompson also adds that Jason is working on a new graphic novel, Werewolves of Montpellier, which will be out in summer of 2010.

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