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Inside First Second with Calista Brill and Colleen AF Venable

Calista Brill and Colleen AF Venable

Calista Brill and Colleen AF Venable

Since its launch in 2006, First Second has built a solid reputation as a publisher of high-quality graphic novels: Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, Emmanuel Guibert’s The Photographer, Mark Siegel’s Sailor Twain, and Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado’s Giants Beware testify to both the breadth and the quality of the company’s line.

I was offered the opportunity to interview editor Calista Brill and designer Colleen AF Venable about the past year at First Second and what we can expect in 2013, but I couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak in some questions about the nuts and bolts of working with creators and editing graphic novels.

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Comics A.M. | Tom Tomorrow wins Herblock Prize

This Modern World

This Modern World

Awards | Dan Perkins, better known to his readers as Tom Tomorrow, is the winner of this year’s Herblock Prize for excellence in editorial cartooning. Panelist Matt Bors cited his “consistently hilarious takedowns of women-bashers, gun culture and the president’s abuse of executive power.” The finalist was Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman. The award includes cash prizes of $15,000 (after taxes!) for the winner and $5,000 for the finalist. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Publishing | Dark Horse founder Mike Richardson explains how the company develops licensed properties, specifically “expanded universes” that build on the world of a movie or video game: “So we came up with the idea that we could approach these licensed properties as sequels, particularly in the early days when we focused primarily on film. We’d sit down like fanboys and say ‘Okay, that was great, what can we do next?’” [Forbes]

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Food or Comics? | Unsweetened chocolate or Uncanny X-Men

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.

Uncanny X-Men #1

Corey Blake

If I had $15, I’d be tempted to blow it all on the recolored Death of Superman collection for the ’90s nostalgia. But then I’d probably flip through it and come to my senses, and instead get something new like Fatale #12 ($3.50) by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, which looks like it’s going to be a trip, flashing back to Medieval times but self-contained as a good entry point for new readers. That’s smart comics. Speaking of smarty-pants, I’d probably get The Manhattan Projects #9 ($3.50) by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra. It’s the first part of a two-part story about scientists trying to take over the world. There will probably be lots of words that leave me dizzy. I likely wouldn’t be able to resist Matt Wagner writing The Shadow: Year One #1 ($3.99) because, you know, The Shadow knows. I haven’t been following IDW’s G.I. Joe universe but G.I. Joe #1 ($3.99) by Fred Van Lente and Steve Kurth seems like a good opportunity to try it out. And I’d finish it off with Cyber Force #3 by Marc Silvestri and Koi Pham because it’s free.

With $30, I would add to the above. Darkhawk is on the cover of Avengers Arena #4 ($2.99) by Dennis Hopeless and Alessandro Vitti, so I’d be compelled to buy that. I’ve been meaning to check out Erik Burnham and Dan Schoening’s Ghostbusters since I hear it’s real fun, so the relaunched Ghostbusters #1 ($3.99) is a perfect opportunity. Morning Glories #24 ($2.99) by Nick Spencer and Joe Eisma seems too intriguing to pass up. I am so behind on the X-books, but I’d be real tempted to try Brian Michael Bendis and Chris Bachalo’s Uncanny X-Men #1 ($3.99).

My splurge item would be tough. I’d be real tempted to get either the Iron Man Omnibus collecting the entire run of David Michelinie, Bob Layton and John Romita Jr., including the famous alcoholism story, or Counter X: Generation X – Four Days by Brian Wood. But I’d probably end up instead getting the Daredevil By Mark Waid, Vol. 1 hardcover for $35. I don’t know, do I need to justify this purchase? It’s probably the most beloved superhero comic of last year, maybe for the last couple of years. It paved the way for similarly rejuvenating series at Marvel like Hawkeye, Captain Marvel, and Young Avengers. The art by Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martin is swoon-worthy. And it wants to be on my bookshelf, dagnabbit!

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Robot Roulette | Faith Erin Hicks

Thirty-six questions. Six answers. One random number generator. Welcome to Robot Roulette, where creators roll the virtual dice and answer our questions about their lives, careers, interests and more.

Today Faith Erin Hicks steps up to the wheel. You know her from such works as Friends with Boys, Brain Camp, The Adventures of Superhero Girl, Zombies Calling and The War at Ellesmere, as well as the upcoming The Last of Us and Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. Check out her website for more information.

Now let’s get to it …

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Quote of the Day #2 | Faith Erin Hicks on the importance of editors

“Good editors are your partners in making good comics. They are on your side. They are the trained second pair of eyes who look at your stories without the baggage you bring to them (sometimes, sadly, artists can get too close to the comic they’ve been working on for years, and not see the occasional story snarl or character breakdown), and challenge you to make your comic the best it can be. They point out when a comic panel doesn’t read properly, when a character looks off-model, and sometimes they’ll even give you notes like ‘this looks awesome!!!’ with little hearts drawn in the margins. Good editors are worth their weight in gold.”

Faith Erin Hicks, on why she prefers to work with an editor

Of course, I’m biased because I was an editor before I was a writer, but I think Faith hits the nail on the head here. Everything is improved by a second set of eyes. The whole piece is worth reading, because Faith talks about the sort of discussions she has with her editor and what she is and isn’t willing to change.

First Second’s spring line-up includes new Kindt, Seagle and more

Genius

First Second sent out its latest catalog earlier this week, highlighting all the graphic novels it will release next spring. The bad news is, there’s still no Battling Boy on the schedule, nor do the Box Brown Andre the Giant or as-yet-unrevealed Becky Cloonan books appear. But the good news is there are projects featuring the likes of Faith Erin Hicks, Matt Kindt, Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen, Dave Roman and many more.

Here’s the rundown:

Odd Duck, by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon.  “A heartwarming tale of the perils and pleasures of friendship featuring two ducks who are both a bit odd.” Varon has done several graphic novels for First Second, including Bake Sale and Robot Dreams, while Castellucci wrote the Plain Janes books for DC’s Minx line, as well as several Young Adult novels.

Primates, by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks.  A new science book from Jim Ottaviani, the author of thwe well-received Feynman, “with Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Biruté Galdikas and all sorts of primates.” Wicks, meanwhile, has a fun blog where you can check out her work, which includes several kids titles like Spongebob and Adventure Time.

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Comics A.M. | Phoenix accused of axing comic to please advertiser

From the Karl Stevens comic in question

Comics | The editor-in-chief of the Boston Phoenix denies accusations that the alternative weekly canceled Karl Stevens‘ satirical comic Failure because advertiser Anheuser-Busch was offended by last week’s strip, which referred to Bud Light as “diluted horse piss.” Stevens, whose comic has appeared on ThePhoenix.com since 2009, claims he was told by the art director that Failure was being canceled specifically because of the Bud Light jab. “Apparently I offended Bud Light, and cannot be trusted,” Steven told Publishers Weekly. However, Editor-in-Chief Carly Carioli called the accusation “categorically false,” insisting Failure was canceled because it no longer fit The Phoenix, which has changed from a weekly newspaper to a weekly magazine. “It is categorically false that Karl’s strip was discontinued due to any outside objections. As the Phoenix’s editor in chief, it was my sole decision to discontinue Failure,” Carioli told The Boston Globe. “There were no sponsor objections — zero — to this strip or any other that I’m aware of.” [Publishers Weekly, The Boston Globe]

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True Patriot creators pitching in for Hurricane Sandy relief

The Canadian cartoonists who just completed a successful Indiegogo campaign to publish their homegrown superhero anthology True Patriot are back, but this time they aren’t in it for themselves: They’ve just launched a second Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for the Red Cross.

As the text on the Indiegogo page explains:

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Comics A.M. | Scottish city may honor Beano characters

Bash Street Kids

Comics | Scottish publisher DC Thomson has asked Dundee City Council to rename a street in the city’s west end to honor the Bash Street Kids, stars of the long-running comic strip in The Beano. An unnamed street adjacent to 142/144 West Marketgait would be called Bash Street as part of the celebration of the magazine’s 75th anniversary. [LocalGov]

Retailing | North Hollywood will get a new comics shop on Nov. 10, when Blastoff Comics opens its doors. Owner Jud Meyers seems to think it is an essential part of a hip neighborhood: “They want restaurants, they want bars, they want supermarkets, they want gyms. What didn’t they have? They don’t have a comic book store, every neighborhood has got to have a comic book store.” The opening will feature an assortment of comics guests, including Mark Waid, Greg Hurwitz, and Jim Kreuger, whose The High Cost of Happily Ever After will premiere at the event. [Patch.com]

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NYCC | A roundup of news from Saturday

The Last of Us

While I was enjoying my time at APE up in San Francisco, the New York Comic Con was raging on with announcements and such. Before I get into a rundown of the comic-related news coming out of the East Coast today, let’s jump back to yesterday real quick so I can update one of the items from my Friday round-up. I mentioned that Dark Horse would publish a comic based on the upcoming video game The Last of Us, but I didn’t know at the time the most important part — the always awesome Faith Erin Hicks is co-writing AND drawing the comic. That’s a “Stop the presses” moment if I’ve ever seen one.

Ok, now on to Saturday …

• Apparently space is the place at NYCC … following DC’s announcement of Threshold yesterday, Marvel officially announced the return of two of their cosmic titles — Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova. Guardians, written by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Steve McNiven, comes out in February and apparently will feature Iron Man, or at least someone in his armor. Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness are the creative team for Nova, which features Sam Alexander, the Nova from Avengers vs. X-Men.

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Two great ‘kids’ titles adult comics connoisseurs will want to read

Even at this advanced point in the decades-long flowering of the graphic novel, both in public esteem and in mainstream publishers’ plans, David Nytra’s The Secret of the Stone Frog stands out as a remarkable book, one that accomplishes something I don’t remember seeing any other similar work manage.

It’s from Toon Books, editor Francoise Mouly’s imprint of Candlewick Press, which for years now has been producing superior, hardcover kids’ comics for readers of various ages. And at 77 pages, it’s the first to be explicitly labeled a graphic novel.

The story is a traditional one of two children, brother and sister, the latter of whom is on the cusp of adolescence — their parents think Leah is now old enough to get her own room, rather than sharing one with her younger brother Alan — and one night when they go to sleep, they awake in a world that’s similar to the one they know, but with familiar aspects exploded in fantastical directions. The setting, or settings, suggest Victorian England, and Nytra’s artwork suggests classic children’s literature from in and around the same period.

His elaborate and detailed black-and-white art, drawn with a crowquill pen and india ink, resembles that of John Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Pauline Baynes’ for C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series; although the fine line work and classic-looking subject matter may also suggest to you E.H. Shepard’s illustrations for A.A. Milne’s Pooh books, or Beatrix Potter’s drawings for her many animal tales, or the full-page illustrations that appear in the various Andrew Lang colored fairy books.

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New webcomic debuts from Faith Erin Hicks

The newest graphic novel from First Second Books is Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, adapted by Faith Erin Hicks from a novel by Prudence Shen. As they did with Americus and Hicks’ earlier graphic novel Friends With Boys, First Second will serialize the entire story online before releasing it in print. The webcomic launches with the entire first chapter, which sets up the conflict nicely: The science club must battle for funds with the cheerleaders; will the money go for robot parts or “hoochie outfits”? Shen and Hicks also manage to introduce a decent-sized cast of characters and sketch out their personalities a bit with a minimum of boring expository dialogue. I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes!

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Canadians grow their own superheroes for new anthology

J. Bone's take on Alpha Flight

J. Torres explains his newest project:

A number of my Canadian comic book pals and I grew up reading Alpha Flight, Captain Canuck, or Wolverine comics and we’ve always thought that there should be more Canadian superheroes out there. Over the years, we’d periodically get together and inevitably talk about the Canadian superheroes we’ve created (sometimes dating back to childhood) and always wanting to do “something” with them.

Well, we’re finally about to do something — something pretty big, and pretty cool. Kinda like Canada itself, eh?

That something is True Patriot, an anthology of short stories featuring homegrown Canadian superheroes, and Torres has announced a stellar roster that includes Scott Chantler (Two Generals), Ramon Perez (A Tale of Sand), Andy Belanger (Kill Shakespeare), Faith Erin Hicks (Friends With Boys, The Adventures of Superhero Girl) and the team of Jack Briglio and Ron Salas. The anthology will be 100 pages, full color (or “colour,” as they say north of the border), and available in both hardcover and digital formats. Watch for the campaign to go live on IndieGoGo on Oct. 1, but in the meantime, check out Torres’ blog for some cool character designs.

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Quote of the Day | Writers should consider learning to draw

Faith Erin Hicks drawing

This is actually an answer I like to give to writers when they ask me the question of how they can attract an artist, “Have you considered drawing your comic yourself?” I get that not everyone draws, or has the capacity and patience (and time and momentum) to learn drawing, but take it from me, drawing is a skill, and it is something many people can learn. So why not give it a try?

Faith Erin Hicks

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Robot 6 Q&A | Faith Erin Hicks on Superhero Girl

The Adventures of Superhero Girl

Last week we broke the news that Dark Horse will publish a print edition of Faith Erin Hicks’s The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Hicks has always been a very articulate commentator on comics and comics creation, so it seemed like a good opportunity to ask her a few questions about the book and how it evolved.

Robot 6: Tell us a bit about the genesis of Superhero Girl. When did you start drawing it, and what did you have in mind for it at the beginning?

Faith Erin Hicks: I started drawing Superhero Girl at the beginning of 2010. I remember because I was in the midst of moving apartments and trying to scrape out the first comic on a deadline while unpacking all my stuff … I don’t think I even had my drawing desk set up. I’d had the idea of doing a comic about a not terribly successful Superhero Girl for a while, and wanted to do it as a webcomic, but I’d originally imagined it as a story-based comic, as that was what I was used to doing. I’m very attracted to the idea of superheroes, of having powers and ability beyond the usual, and I’d noticed that there weren’t many superhero comics made with me as a reader in mind. I like the idea of Supergirl and Wonder Woman, but I can’t say I’ve enjoyed their comics much. So I decided to make a superhero comic for me.

… that actually seems to be how all my comics get started.

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