I first became aware of colorist Steve Downer due to his work on MonkeyBrain Comics’ Edison Rex. But as I quickly learned, he serves as colorist on a variety of projects, as well as artist on Dracula the Unconquered. Given the variety of Downer’s projects, I thought it would be insightful to discuss his craft with him.
Tim O’Shea: How long have you been a colorist?
Steve Downer: I’ve been working full-time as a colorist since 2009, though I started coloring as a side job much earlier, in 2007, while I worked as a T-shirt graphic designer.
Welcome to “Report Card,” our week-in-review feature. If “Cheat Sheet” is your guide to the week ahead, “Report Card” is typically a look back at the top news stories of the previous week, as well as a look at the Robot 6 team’s favorite comics that we read.
So find out what we thought about the final issue of It Girl & the Atomics, the latest Edison Rex and more.
It was about a year ago that Monkeybrain Comics, the all-digital, creator-owned comics publisher headed up by Chris Roberson and Allison Baker, burst onto the scene. A year later, they’ve published roughly two dozen titles, many of which have found print homes and one of which, Bandette, brought home a few Eisner nominations.
In celebration of their big year, we thought we’d list six of our favorite Monkeybrain titles, but we couldn’t quite narrow the list down that far, so you’re getting one bonus selection as well.
Chris Roberson has been thinking what comic writers are supposed to do in comics. While many creators follow the usual trajectory of creator-owned projects to Marvel or DC, the Portland, Oregon-based writer went from the Big Two and found his true calling, making his own comics and helping others to do the same.
A science fiction author, Roberson was ushered into comics as a colleague and co-writer of Fables creator Bill Willingham. However, Roberson quickly branched out, first with the Vertigo series iZombie, and then as the writer of Superman, putting him in the unenviable position of picking up the pieces after J. Michael Straczynski left midway through his much-heralded run. Although he turned in some great work in his short run on Superman/Batman, Roberson ultimately found DC not the kind of place he wanted to continue working.
Several weeks ago when I interviewed Edison Rex co-creator Chris Roberson, we had hoped to include co-creator Dennis Culver in the discussion. Schedules didn’t work out at the time, but happily, on the eve of the deadline to pre-order the Edison Rex trade paperback (Diamond Code APR130377), Culver’s schedule freed up for an interview about his co-creation.
As if collecting the Edison Rex issues 1-6 isn’t enough to interest you in this IDW Publishing release, Roberson and Culver have scored an introduction by the great Kurt Busiek. The collection will hit shelves June 12.
Tim O’Shea: How did the IDW publishing deal come together?
Dennis Culver: That was all [Monkeybrain Comics co-publishers] Chris [Roberson] and Allison [Baker]. From what I understand, IDW had expressed an interest in print collections fairly early in the Monkeybrain launch, and I was on board as soon as I heard. They gave us a fair deal and they put out great looking books. I’m very happy to publish Rex through them!
Last week was a banner one for Monkeybrain Comics, as plans were revealed to “bring its digital titles to print beginning in June in collected editions released through IDW Publishing and Shadowline/Image.” But before this deal was announced I caught up with Chris Roberson, the writer of Edison Rex and co-publisher of Monkeybrain.
This interview was conducted before the IDW and Shadowline/Image agreements were announced, which is why they’re not discussed. Edison Rex #6 will be released March 13. Roberson is great to chat with about the creative process, as he relishes revealing how the narrative hot dogs are made almost as much as creating the stories themselves. The world that Roberson and co-creator/artist Dennis Culver had built for the series fascinates me, and it was a pleasure to chat with the writer about it.
Tim O’Shea: As much as this series is about a villain becoming a hero, there’s a great undercurrent of humor. Is that the core appeal of the series from a creative standpoint?
Chris Roberson: I always like a little levity in the stories I read or the shows I watch. When stories maintain a consistently grim tone, it can be a little wearying. Adding in a joke here and there not only serves to lighten the mood from time to time, but also makes the more serious moments stand out by contrast.
Monkeybrain Comics will bring its digital titles to print beginning in June in collected editions released through IDW Publishing and Shadowline/Image. Launched in July 2012 by Monkeybrain founders Chris Roberson and Allison Barker, the digital imprint has so far distributed its creator-owned comics exclusively through comiXology.
The print editions will kick off with the IDW collection of Edison Rex, Roberson and Dennis Culver’s story about the world’s greatest villain who must figure out what to do with his life after he defeats his arch-nemesis. That will be followed in July by the Shadowline/Image collection of Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson’s superhero-noir anthology Masks & Mobsters. The initial wave of collections will conclude in August with the IDW release of Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, the fantasy from Adam P. Knave, D.J. Kirkbride and Nick Brokeshire. More collections announcements are promised in coming months.
“Print collections have been a main goal from the beginning and it’s really exciting to see such a major piece of the plan fall into place,” Baker said in a statement, “especially since it means even more people get to discover the amazing work of our creators!”
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at the comics, books and other things we’ve been perusing of late. Our guest today is Tyler James (@tylerjamescomic), the publisher of ComixTribe, which is both an online resources for comic creators and a new creator-owned imprint. Tyler is also the writer of the superhero murder mystery The Red Ten, which goes on sale Dec. 19, and the organizer of the annual 30 Characters Challenge, in which writers and artists attempt to create 30 characters in just 30 days, one for every day in November (it’s under way now at 30characters.com).
Here’s what Tyler and the Robot 6 crew are reading this week:
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? This week we’re joined by music video director and comic book writer Alex de Campi, whose works include Smoke, Kat & Mouse, Valentine and the in-production Ashes.
To see at Alex and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
One of the clearcut hits from the first wave of Monkeybrain Comics digital line is Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover‘s Bandette, a great mixture of Tintin and Nancy Drew-type adventure. Today marks the release of Issue 2 – for the great price of 99 cents – where (as you can see by the preview CBR ran yesterday) Bandette foils a bank robbery in her own unique way.
To help get people as riled as I am for today’s release, I recently barraged Coover and Tobin with a series of questions. As a longtime fan of Tobin’s run on Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, it pleased me immensely that Tobin is building somewhat upon the Blonde Phantom/Chat substories/genre he explored in the former series. I also appreciate a turn of phrase that Tobin used (“zest for life”) in discussing the new digital collaboration with Coover. I think zest for life is a quality that fuels Coover’s art.
In addition to the digital Issue 2 coming out today, on Saturday Coover will be at the Jet City Comic Show in Seattle. My thanks to Coover and Tobin for their time.
Since the first time I hung out with Monkeybrain Books founders Allison Baker and Chris Roberson at the Westin hotel bar during HeroesCon a few years back, I have longed to do a joint interview with them. While their publishing house Monkeybrain Books has been in existence since 2001, in July Baker and Roberson launched a creator-owned comiXology-distributed digital imprint, Monkeybrain Comics. While much is known of Roberson, not everyone knows Baker’s background. As detailed at their company website: “Allison Baker has worked in feature film and political media production for more than 13 years, while also managing the day-to-day operations of Chris Roberson and Monkeybrain Books.” Please allow me to apologize in advance for not quizzing Roberson about my new favorite Monkeybrain work of his, Edison Rex. Update: After I finished posting this article, Monkeybrain announced that tomorrow (August 14) would mark the release of a 99-cent autobiographical story by Kurt Busiek, Thoughts on A Winter Morning, drawn by Steve Lieber (a story which was originally appeared in Negative Burn: Winter 2005).
Tim O’Shea: Which came first, the decision to move to Portland or the decision to move Monkeybrain into the digital realm?
Allison Baker: The move to PDX was definitely decided first. Monkeybrain Comics started out as an idea and theory, trying to solve a lot of the problems creators run into when working within a traditional publishing model. The final piece of the puzzle came to us at the end of last year. After that we started actively putting it all together in the beginning of 2012.
Chris Roberson: Yeah, we’d been planning our move to Portland for well over a year, and talking about it for a year or two before that. The germ of the idea that would eventually become Monkeybrain Comics was planted around the same time, but didn’t take its final form as a digital comics imprint until the end of last year.