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Conversing on Comics with Mike Baron

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Mike Baron has done it all in comics, and then some. But what he loves most is creating his own characters, and he was doing “creator-owned comics” years before it became a movement. A collaboration with Steve Rude, Baron’s Nexus was one of the 1980s gleaming independent gems — and Baron expanded on that with the PTSD-prone veteran-turned-hero Badger.

Like many of his colleagues, Baron spent time at the Big Two, crafting a six-year run on The Punisher and doing some memorable work on Deadman. But just as he broke into comics creating his own characters, 2014 sees Baron returning to that — both in comics and in prose novels. The Colorado author is currently writing his fifth novel, Domain, and charting the return of his signature creation Badger.

ROBOT 6 spoke with the two-time Eisner winner spoke at length about his projects, his passion, and his love of martial arts.

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Exclusive | The Fillbach Brothers put the pedal to the metal

Matt and Shawn Fillbach

At the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo this year, I had the opportunity to meet Shawn and Matt Fillbach, who are best known for their eight-year run illustrating the Star Wars: The Clone Wars graphic novels for Dark Horse. They have since struck out on their own and have spent the past year writing and illustrating an impressive stack of books. The Fillbach Brothers aren’t twins, but as you’ll see from the interview, they act like it; they work together so closely they can’t really say who does what, and as Matt puts it, “We think with one brain.”

In Chicago, the brothers showed me the art for the graphic novel they had just finished, Macabro Demondio, which stars their character Jim Kowalski, paranormal trucker (first seen in their 2009 graphic novel Roadkill). Jim is the guy who cleans up after the big paranormal events; he follows the Department of Paranormal Experts and picks up the chupacabras, the artifacts, the space aliens, and brings them back to headquarters (there’s also a squad of gnomes that performs the site cleanup). “We were more interested in telling the story of the guy who isn’t the hero,” Shawn told me. “It’s very much inspired by stuff like Big Trouble in Little China.”

Since then, the Fillbachs have kept busy. They have six graphic novels either finished or in progress; all are slated to be published by First Comics, and they are giving Robot 6 readers an exclusive sneak peek.

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Comics A.M. | Brett Ewins out of jail; Ali Farzat continues to fight

Brett Ewins

Creators | Former 2000AD artist Brett Ewins has been freed on bail after a judge reduced his charge to assult. Ewins, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was accused of stabbing a police officer in a January altercation that left the 56-year-old artist hospitalized in serious condition. Because Ewins has already served nine months, part of it in a hospital (where he was in a coma), it’s unlikely he’ll have to go back behind bars. [Sex, Drugs, & Comic Books]

Creators | Syrian cartoonist Ali Farzat, who escaped to Kuwait after the Syrian security police beat him and broke his hands, is now living in Egypt and continuing to draw cartoons supporting the Syrian revolution. “Fear has been defeated in Syria when the people marched 19 months ago against tyranny,” he said. “I began to directly draw people in power including Assad and his government officials, to break the barrier of fear, that chronic fear that Syrians suffered from for 50 years.” [Reuters]

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C2E2 2012 | Friday Photodiary

Welcome to C2E2

One of the things a lot of pros like about C2E2 is the late start on Friday. It doesn’t open to the public until 1:00 pm, so creators can sleep in and recover from their trips if they want. Or, if they want to go early to set up or just walk around and visit with each other, they can do that too. It’s also helpful for press jerks taking lots of pictures. Lots. Of pictures.

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Comics A.M. | CCS’s Schulz Library damaged in flood; when Marvel almost licensed Superman

Schulz Library

Education | The Center For Cartoon Studies’ Schulz Library in White River Junction, Vermont, was damaged over the weekend in flooding caused by torrential rains from Hurricane Irene. According to CCS Director James Sturm, volunteers called in Sunday night were able to remove about 70 percent of the library’s collection and move the remaining materials to higher shelves. However, he indicated to Tom Spurgeon that the building itself may be a loss. [The Comics Reporter]

Publishing | Jim Shooter, former editor-in-chief for Marvel Comics, shares the story of how DC Comics almost licensed the publishing rights to their characters to Marvel in the mid-1980s. Obviously the deal never happened, which Shooter said was due to a lawsuit by First Comics alleging anti-trust violations. [Jim Shooter]

Creators | Gail Simone discusses her upcoming work on Batgirl and Fury of Firestorm. [TFAW]

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SDCC ’11 | A roundup of Friday’s announcements

The Massive

Friday was a busy day in San Diego, with a full slate of announcements capped by the Eisner Awards in the evening.

• Image Comics will resurrect the classic television show MacGyver as a five-issue miniseries written by MacGyver creator Lee David Zlotoff and Doctor Who writer Tony Lee, and illustrated by Becky Cloonan.

Brian Wood’s newest project was announced — The Massive, about environmentalists who survive the last environmental collapse. The comic will start its run in Dark Horse Presents #8 in January.

• Vertigo Executive Editor Karen Berger confirmed that Scalped will end with issue #60.

• Marvel teased the return of the Scarlet Spider.

• DC Comics released more interior art for several of their “New 52″ titles, including Aquaman, Mister Terrific and more.

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SDCC ’11 | First Comics taking submissions

First Comics

As we learned earlier this month, First Comics is back in action, and they held a panel Thursday in San Diego to discuss several of their new projects, which include new material and reprints of older material (like some of Bill Willingham’s early work from Warp).

After the panel, Larry Young, their new director of production, shared one tidbit with me — Susannah Carson, First’s young adult editor, is also the submissions editor for the company. To submit material, creators can email her at submissions.firstcomics@gmail.com.

Watch for more information from the panel soon.

SDCC ’11 | Photos from the floor

Ah, Comic-Con … there’s nothing like fighting through the crowds, and there’s nothing like finding a quiet corner somewhere to post all the pictures you’ve taken …

Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello is all over the show today, promoting the shiny new book he’s writing at Dark Horse called Orchid. He said at a panel today that Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance is a friend of his and is the one who introduced him to his new “Dark Horse family.”

After taking this picture, I was almost run over by WWE’s Triple H. Only at Comic-Con can you bounce between a Nightwatchmen and The Game …

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The Middle Ground #60 | First Things First

The news last week about the return of First Comics makes me happier than it has any right to. Although I haven’t read an incredible amount of the publishers’ 1980s/1990s output–which included a couple of gems, which I have read: American Flagg! Nexus! Those two alone feel like they should earn First a place in most comic lovers’ hearts–the publisher holds a weird place in my heart for being, I’m pretty convinced, the first American indie publisher I ever bought a comic from, way back when.

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Robot 6 Q&A | Larry Young on the return of First Comics

Warp #1

Yesterday we learned by way of the San Diego Comic-Con Thursday panel schedule that First Comics, a hallmark of 1980s independent comic book publishing, is returning. According to the write-up for the panel:

First Comics: The First of the Great Independents Is Back with a Fury!— Legendary ’80s independent publishing powerhouse First Comics is returning when the world needs it most, not unlike the promised return of King Arthur. And the assembled Round Table of extraordinary comics creators are here to tell you how they will once again be rocking your world with comics entertainment from the cutting edge. Panelists include Ken F. Levin (Wanted, The Boys, First Comics co-founder and director), Joe Staton and Nick Cuti (E-Man), Bill Willingham (Fables), Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition), Brian Mullens (founder of DaQRi; QR director), Alex Wald (art director then and again), Susannah Carson (A Truth Universally Acknowledged; First Comics YA editor), and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (The Tarquin Engine, The Last Sane Cowboy). Moderated by Larry Young (The Black Diamond; First Comics director of production). Room 23ABC

As noted in the description, several on the panel were involved with First Comics back in the 1980s; others, like Willingham and Collins, were involved in making prominent independent comics at the time (Collins created Ms. Tree, published by Eclipse and other companies, while Willingham created Elementals, published by Comico). And there are new faces, like Goodbrey and Young. Goodbrey stated on his blog that his webcomic Necessary Monsters would be involved. And Young, publisher of AiT/Planet Lar, will serve as director of production for the returning company.

I caught up with Young, who answered a few questions about First’s return.

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First Comics returns?

Apparently so, according to the just-released Thursday panel schedule for Comic-Con International:

5:00-6:00 First Comics: The First of the Great Independents Is Back with a Fury!— Legendary ’80s independent publishing powerhouse First Comics is returning when the world needs it most, not unlike the promised return of King Arthur. And the assembled Round Table of extraordinary comics creators are here to tell you how they will once again be rocking your world with comics entertainment from the cutting edge. Panelists include Ken F. Levin (Wanted, The Boys, First Comics co-founder and director), Joe Staton and Nick Cuti (E-Man), Bill Willingham (Fables), Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition), Brian Mullens (founder of DaQRi; QR director), Alex Wald (art director then and again), Susannah Carson (A Truth Universally Acknowledged; First Comics YA editor), and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey (The Tarquin Engine, The Last Sane Cowboy). Moderated by Larry Young (The Black Diamond; First Comics director of production). Room 23ABC

First Comics was an independent comics company that published titles like Dreadstar, E-Man, Jon Sable, Badger, Nexus, Grimjack , American Flagg! and other titles back in the 1980s. It’s an interesting mix of folks on the panel, including several names that were associated with First back in the 1980s.


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