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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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The Grumpy Color | Carla and Tom wreck 2012, Part 1

The holidays always brings folks together

At the end of every year Carla Hoffman and Tom Bondurant exchange emails about the fortunes of the Big Two. Look for Part 2 on Wednesday!

Carla: Here we are, heading toward the year the Mayan calendar might not have thought would ever come: 2013. The future gets closer and closer! Technology advances! Politics change! And yet, comic books are still here. How cool is that? It’s been a heck of a year, full of ups and downs, movie premieres, new #1 issues and the never-ending race to produce better, faster comics.

I have to admit, Image has been doing a really great job keeping up with the Big Two, producing award-winning books in a variety of formats and getting involved in TV to draw new readers into a wide array of comic book genres. But we’re not here to talk about them! We’re here for the greatest shows in town, the Merry Marvel Marching Society and … our Distinguished Competitors.

My first question is kind of a no-brainer: How’s the New 52 treating you these days? And, after a year, is it still the “New 52″?

Tom: Well, as a practical matter, it’s the “New 52″ for as long as DC wants it to be. Actually, I think I have stopped seeing that little blurb on the covers. I happened to look at Aquaman #15 yesterday, kind of out of the corner of my eye, and was surprised it was there. Part of me thinks that it could confuse those hypothetical new readers, but then I thought that about “Earth One,” and that doesn’t seem to have hurt those books.
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Sex and the retired superhero: An interview with Joe Casey

With Butcher Baker in the rear-view mirror and Godland about to wrap up, you might be wondering what Joe Casey has planned for 2013. The answer is Sex – lots and lots of Sex.

Announced last summer at Comic-Con International, Sex follows a retired superhero as he tries to adjust to a “normal” life. The monthly series, drawn by Piotr Kowalski, kicks off in March from Image Comics. I spoke with Casey about the new series, superheroes and sexuality, and what else he has planned for 2013.

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Read The Story of Hank Williams, by Dylan Williams

Sixty years ago this week, sometime during the night as 1952 gave way to 1953, Hank Williams died in the back seat of his baby-blue Cadillac, en route from Tennessee to a New Year’s Day concert he was supposed to play in Canton, Ohio. Some say Hank Williams was the greatest songwriter who ever lived, and you can’t argue that during his brief career he changed country music in profound ways. But this is a comics blog, so I’m here to talk about his connections to comics.

Although Hank sang every song as if it had happened to him personally, he got his ideas from all over, including romance comics. Here’s Hank’s contemporary, DJ and songwriter Merle Kilgore, talking about it:

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‘Adapt, innovate, execute’: Matt Gagnon on BOOM!’s 2012 and 2013

Matt Gagnon

Although I’ve known him for a few years from frequent drop-ins at the BOOM! Studios booth on the convention circuit, I haven’t ever had the opportunity to interview Matt Gagnon, the company’s editor-in-chief. So I jumped at the chance to talk to him for ROBOT 6′s anniversary.

Matt Gagnon joined BOOM! in 2008 to edit its Farscape comics after working as buyer and purchasing manager for Hollywood’s Meltdown Comics. He moved up fairly quickly, becoming managing editor, then editor-in-chief when Mark Waid was named chief creative officer in 2010. This past year saw the launch of BOOM!’s ultra-popular Adventure Time comic book, as well as several other kids’ series as a part of the KaBOOM! line. The publisher also announced a new Hellraiser series and put out several original series, like Higher Earth, Freelancers (which Gagnon co-created) and last week’s Deathmatch, just to name a few.

My thanks to Matt for his time, as well to BOOM!’s Filip Sablik, who helped set it all up.

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Exclusive Preview | Michael DeForge’s Lose #5

One of the current stars in the Koyama Press lineup is Canadian artist Michael DeForge. So it’s no surprise that Koyama plans to publish the fifth issue  of DeForge’s one-man anthology series Lose in 2013. The issue will feature three self-contained stories: “Living Outdoors” tracks two high school students as they explore a zoo and experiment with hallucinogens; “Muskoka” is the story of a cowboy on the road home to see his family; and “Recent Hires” follows a young author’s descent into the criminal underworld in order to win the affections of a girl.

Annie Koyama was kind enough to send us a two-page preview from the “Living Outdoors” story, which you can see below. I’d also highly recommend checking out a story DeForge recently posted to his blog, First Year Healthy.

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Patrick Zircher on Shadowman, plus an exclusive preview of Issue 3

Possessed by a spirit that dwells within him, charged with protecting the people of New Orleans from ghastly creatures from the beyond, Shadowman has always been a dark character. With the revival of this classic Valiant series, Patrick Zircher and Justin Jordan have “hit the refresh button,” as Zircher says below, going back to the moment when Jack begins to experience himself as the Shadowman and moving forward from there. His old nemesis, Master Darque, is still in the picture, but Jack’s more immediate problem is a horrifying new villain, Mr. Twist. I talked to Zircher, penciler and co-writer of the series, about where he and Jordan plan to take Jack. Valiant also provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview of Shadowman #3.

Robot 6: How did you get this gig? And did you start out as a co-writer as well as the artist, or did that just evolve?

Patrick Zircher: Warren Simons, Valiant’s executive editor, called. Warren and I had worked together at Marvel on Thor, Iron Fist, and several other books. Warren was one of Marvel’s best, and he has always been willing to let me expand as a creator. I first began inking my own work for Warren and we talked even then about writing, too. With Valiant, from the get-go we discussed it as well as drawing. The capacity of the writing has evolved. As I’ve shown what I can do, I’m, happily, writing more.

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Jim McCann and Janet Lee double down on Lost Vegas

Lost Vegas 1 (Art by Janet Lee)

Ever since the initial success of Jim McCann and Janet Lee‘s 2010 original graphic novel Return of the Dapper Men, fans have been eager to see the next project from the two collaborators. That wait ends this March with the debut of Lost Vegas, a four-issue miniseries from Image Comics.

The tale centers on “one gambler-turned-slave [who] has 24 hours to go all in and pull off the greatest heist the universe has seen.” In addition to discussing this new miniseries, McCann briefly acknowledges the self-described “limbo” that has delayed any follow-up to Dapper Men. I never tire of the opportunity to get the perspective of two storytellers at the same time. Enjoy.

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Exclusive Preview | Young Avengers #2

From Young Avengers #2

We’re probably as excited about Young Avengers as we are about any of the titles launching as part of the Marvel NOW! initiative. Not only does the series reunite Phonogram collaborators Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie, it teams Young Avengers mainstays like Hulking, Wiccan and Kate Bishop with Miss America, Marvel Boy and fan favorite Kid Loki — at least for starters.

“… What I want to do in Young Avengers is build a kind of larger metastructure that you can use to explore any part of the teen-leaning Marvel Universe outside the traditional doctrines of the larger government side heroes,” Gillen told Comic Book Resources in October. “I have a real strong vision for 12 issues. I have no idea if I’ll be staying on after that or going, but I have 12 definitive, brilliant issues, or maybe 13. After that Young Avengers will be set up as a device where you can go to any of the Marvel Universe locales where teen heroes live and work like the West Coast with the Runaways or the Jean Grey School. It’s a very wide ranging book in that way. For me it’s super heroism as a metaphor for talent and deciding what you want to do with it. There’s a line in my original proposal for this that the original Young Avengers book was kind of about being 16. This book is about being 18.”

Although we still have to wait a few weeks for the debut of Young Avengers — Jan. 23, to be exact — Marvel has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive first look at Issue 2, due to arrive Feb. 27:

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Exclusive Preview | Star Wars: The Clone Wars — Defenders of the Lost Temple

Next week Dark Horse will debut a new Star Wars series set in the period between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, followed in February by the miniseries Star Wars: Dark Times – Fire Carrier and in March by the revival of Star Wars: Legacy. However, the publisher isn’t stopping there.

March also sees the release of Star Wars: The Clone Wars — Defenders of the Lost Temple, a digest-sized original graphic novel set during the fourth season of the popular animated series.

Written by Justin Aclin, illustrated by Ben Bates and colored by Michael Atiyeh (and sporting a cover by Mike Hawthorne), Defenders of the Lost Temple centers on a clone trooper who, while contemplating his own worth, begins to realize what sets him apart from his brethren may be a connection to the Force. If the lightsaber-wielding clone trooper on the cover isn’t enough of a tease, the solicitation text reinforces it with “A clone trooper with the power of the Force?!”

Dark Horse has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview, which you can see below. Star Wars: The Clone Wars — Defenders of the Lost Temple goes on sale March 13.

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Jim Woodring talks sketching, Problematic and Fran

Problematic

If there is any true visionary in comics today, surely it is Jim Woodring. No one is able to plumb the horror and wonder of simply being alive in the same surreal and enigmatic fashion as Woodring, nor able to combine veer from whimsy to Lynchian terror at the drop of a hat. In graphic novels like Weathercraft and Congress of the Animals, he has shown himself to be not only a (wordless) storyteller of the highest order, but one whose stories feel both warmly familiar and totally alien at the same time — no small feat.

Woodring’s latest book is Problematic, from Fantagraphics, a collection of sketchbook drawings made between 2004 and 2012 on a series of pocket-sized Moleskine books. Ranging from concept sketches to figure studies to caricatures to the sort of phantasmagorical creatures that populate his universes, Problematic is both a stroll through Woodring’s unique imagination and an opportunity to see his working process — to see the “idea batteries” (as the press release calls it) up close and personal.

Woodring was kind enough to answer a barrage of questions I threw at him about Problematic, as well as his next, upcoming graphic novel Fran, a sequel to Congress of the Animals. I could have spent weeks pestering him with questions, and I’m grateful for taking the time to respond.

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Exclusive Preview | So Long, Silver Screen by Blutch

So Long, Silver Screen

One of the highlights in Picturebox’s 2013 schedule is the release of So Long, Silver Screen, the first major release by the French artist Blutch, a.k.a. Christian Hincker, in North America. Although he’s one of the most important European cartoonists of the past 20 years or so (his work has greatly influenced such artists as Craig Thompson and Jessica Abel, just to name a few), Blutch’s work has strangely remained unreleased in the United States until now.

As the title suggests, So Long, Silver Screen is Blutch’s ode to the magic of the cinema. I’ll let the Picturebox press release take it from there:

What are the movies? What effect do they have on us? Why do we love them so much? Blutch addresses all these questions in a series of interlocking short comics that move between scholarly history, romantic theory and ribald vignettes, featuring a motley cast of actors and topics including Burt Lancaster, Jean-Luc Godard, Luchino Visconti, Claudia Cardinale, Tarzan, and Michel Piccoli. As much a visual essay as it is graphic novel, a daydream and a fantastic meditation on the other art of telling stories with images, So Long, Silver Screen is a new height for an uncontested master of contemporary cartooning.

The highly influential and award-winning French cartoonist Blutch has published over a dozen books since his 1988 comic debut in the legendary avant-garde magazine Fluide Glacial. His titles include Mitchum, Peplum, and Le Petit Christian. His illustrations appear in Libération, The New Yorker and Les Inrockuptibles. So Long, Silver Screen is his first full-length work to be published in English.

Translated by Edward Gauvin and sporting a cover design by David Mazzucchelli, the graphic novel will be available in stores in April. See a 10-page preview below.

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Scott Snyder on Batman, ‘Rotworld’ and American Vampire’s hiatus

Scott Snyder

Scott Snyder was already one of DC Comics/Vertigo’s rising stars when he began writing Detective Comics two years ago. In fall 2011, as part of DC’s New 52, Snyder moved over to the main Batman title and began writing Swamp Thing as well. His Batman work has helped put the title on a number of best-of-2012 lists, Swamp Thing is in the midst of the “Rotworld” crossover, and his collaboration with Jim Lee on a new Superman title will begin in 2013. American Vampire is going on hiatus for most of the year, but that will help him and artist Sean Murphy debut The Wake. I spoke with Snyder on Dec. 13, just after Batman #15 was published.

Thanks to Scott for his time, and to DC’s Alex Segura and Pamela Mullin for making the interview possible.

Tom Bondurant: I don’t know about the preliminaries [but] I will say that one phrase that kept coming to mind when I was thinking about interviewing you was that line from Ghostbusters: “How is Elvis, and have you seen him lately?”

Scott Snyder: [laughs] Thanks! Well, I’m a huge Elvis fan, so that really starts the day off right, hearing that.

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Exclusive Preview | Avengers Arena #4

Sixteen heroes enter, one hero leaves in Avengers Arena, the new Marvel NOW! series by Dennis Hopeless, Kev Walker and Allesandro Vitti. At least that’s the plan of the diabolical Arcade, who drops such young Marvel characters as X-23, Reptil, Nico, Chase, and Juston and his Sentinel into Murderworld for a twisted kill-or-be-killed reality-show scenario.

Marvel has provided ROBOT 6 with an exclusive preview of Avengers Arena #4, by Hopeless and Vitti, which the solicitation text teases pits the Runaways against Avengers Academy. The issue goes on sale Feb. 13.

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Matt Kindt and Brian Wood interview each other

First look at the cover for The Massive #1 $1 edition

In March, Dark Horse will reprint the first issues of Brian Wood’s The Massive and Matt Kindt’s MIND MGMT at a special $1 price. The Massive follows a group of environmentalists after the Earth undergoes a massive ecological disaster, while MIND MGMT is the story of a group of psychic super-spies and a journalist who’s pursuing their story. Both reprints will be listed in the new Previews catalog, out Jan. 30, but we have exclusive cover reveals here. And, to make it more fun, I started an interview with Wood and Kindt, and then let them take over.

Robot 6: Each of these comics is set in a universe in which one thing has changed significantly; in MIND MGMT it is not clear right away what has happened, while in The Massive it is obvious, at least in its outer manifestations. What was your inspiration for these, and why did you think they would make for interesting stories?

Matt Kindt: I’m not sure that there is one significant change in Mind MGMT so much as there is just a specific genre choice I made. I try to pick one thing, whether it’s spies or crime or science fiction (in the case of MIND MGMT) and sort of apply that to real characters/people and see how they’ll react. To me it’s more of a “what if” scenario. What if you grew three stories tall? (3 Story) What if you were a spy and hated being one? (Super Spy and 2 Sisters) What if the abilities of the mind were pushed past any known limit? (MIND MGMT) That’s usually where I start and then just create some personalities to populate and react to my “what if.”

Brian Wood: It’s sort of the same thing Matt said. I find a lot of pleasure in creating very flawed, very relatable characters and then putting them through the worst situation possible. So that’s a version of a “what if” story, but in the case of my big world-building books it’s a really exaggerated “what if,” usually involving war and the end of the world. The character dramas, though, those are universal in any setting.

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