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Comics A.M. | Judge rules Sherlock Holmes is in public domain

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #4

Sherlock Holmes: The Liverpool Demon #4

Legal | In a decision that will undoubtedly usher in more Holmes and Watson novels, comic books, movies and television, a federal judge has issued a declarative judgment that the elements included in the 50 Sherlock Holmes stories published by Arthur Conan Doyle before Jan. 1, 1923 are in the public domain in the United States. That means creators are free to use the characters and elements from those stories (but not from the 10 published after 1923) without paying a licensing fee to the protective Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Ltd.

The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed early this year by Leslie Klinger, who served as an adviser on director Guy Ritchie’s two Sherlock Holmes films and with Laurie R. King edited In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of new stories written by different authors. Although Klinger and King had paid a $5,000 licensing fee for a previous Holmes-inspired collection, their publisher received a letter from the Conan Doyle estate demanding another fee; in response, Klinger sued. [The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | Injured ‘Spider-Man’ dancer makes public appearance

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Stage | Dancer Daniel Curry, who was seriously injured during an Aug. 15 performance of the Broadway musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, made his first appearance since the accident at a benefit concert held Monday that raised $10,000 for his medical bills. Curry was injured when his leg was pinned by an automated trap door — he blames malfunctioning equipment, producers say it was human error — resulting in fractured legs and a fractured foot; he has undergone surgeries and unspecified amputations. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Actors’ Equity have launched investigations into the accident, and Curry’s lawyers are exploring a possible lawsuit against the $75 million show and the equipment suppliers.

During previews of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark — before the March 2011 firing of director Julie Taymor and the sweeping overhaul that followed — no fewer than five performers were injured, the most serious previously being aerialist Christopher Tierney, who fell about 30 feet in December 2010, breaking four ribs and fracturing three vertebrae. He returned to rehearsals four months later. There have been no major accidents since the show opened in June 2011. [The New York Times]

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Comics A.M. | Acclaimed editorial cartoonist Roy Peterson dies

Roy Peterson

Roy Peterson

Passings | Roy Peterson, editorial cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun, died Sunday at the age of 77. During his 40-year career, Peterson won more National Newspaper Awards than any other Canadian creator, but he was remembered by his peers chiefly for his sense of humor and his mentoring of younger artists. [Vancouver Sun]

Publishing | CNN contributor Bob Greene profiles Victor Gorelick, the editor-in-chief and co-president of Archie Comics who began working for the publisher at age 17, in 1958. [CNN.com]

Creators | Craig Thompson talks about the short story he wrote and drew for First Second’s Fairy Tale Comics anthology, and he reveals an interesting fact: “For six years or so, my entire income was based on drawing kids’ comics for [Nickelodeon] magazine. Later on my career shifted to drawing ‘serious’ graphic novels aimed at adult readers, but I’ve always wanted to revisit my more fun and cartoony style.” Former Nickelodeon editor Chris Duffy is the editor of Fairy Tale Comics. [Hero Complex]

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Comics A.M. | Calgary Expo sells out; Wizard World loses $1M

Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo

Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo

Conventions | Kandrix Foong, founder of Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, cautions latecomers that all 56,000 tickets for this weekend’s event are sold out. “We tell everybody now: ‘There are no on-site ticket sales,’” he said. “So they say: ‘OK, I’ll just try my luck when I get there.’ ‘No, no, no, you don’t understand. There are no on-site ticket sales. The end. If you show up you will be turned away. Sorry, but that’s the way it’s going to be.’” [Calgary Herald]

Conventions | Wizard World has released its annual report for 2012, and while its convention business was way up, from $3.8 million to $6.7 million, the company still finished the year with a net loss of $1 million. [The Beat]

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Stranger in a strange land: My day at PAX East

George Rohac and a colleague staffed the Oni Press booth

George Rohac and a colleague staffed the Oni Press booth

Going to PAX East in Boston over the weekend was like going to a comic convention on another planet.

The gestalt was the same — the exhibit floor, the booths, the cosplayers, the panels — but everything was a little off. The crowd was bigger and younger. Huge screens advertised properties I knew by name only. A lot of the attendees were glued to consoles or computer screens, playing games; one side of the convention center was split into a massive tabletop gaming area and an even bigger PC gaming section. The part that really came closest to a comic con was the indie area on the exhibit floor, where developers were hand-selling their games the way indie creators promote their graphic novels.

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Comics A.M. | Hedge fund is backing Stan Lee Media’s Disney lawsuit

Stan Lee

Legal | Forbes profiles Michael Wolk, a lawyer who’s organized the financial backing for Stan Lee Media’s prolonged, and so far unsuccessful, multibillion-dollar lawsuits against Marvel and Disney over the rights to the characters co-created by Stan Lee. Wolk’s primary investor is Elliott Management, one the nation’s largest hedge funds. SLM, which is no longer affiliated with its co-founder and namesake, asserts Lee didn’t properly assign ownership of the works to Marvel, and that Disney didn’t file its Marvel agreement with the U.S. Copyright Office. “We are in the right here,” says Wolk, who’s not actually a Stan Lee Media shareholder. “No court has ever addressed or ever decided who is the owner of the characters — all of the prior litigation got dismissed for reasons that have nothing to do with who owns the characters.” [Forbes.com, via The Beat]

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Comics A.M. | Comics numbering (and renumbering); the problem with DRM

Batwoman #0

Publishing | Don MacPherson rails against the current numbering and renumbering practices by Marvel and DC Comics: “I realize other publishers have adopted irregular numbering schemes as well, but DC and Marvel are the ones driving things in that direction. Constant relaunches with new first issues, renumbering those relaunches to exploit a big-number milestone such as a 500th issue, half issues, zero issues, issues with decimal points, Greek letters … it’s exhausting and irritating, and I’m certain it’s frustrating for people preparing price guides and collection databases. Next I’m guessing there will be a series numbered in an alien math rooted in a fictional Kryptonian base-14 numerical system.” [Eye on Comics]

Digital comics | David Brothers articulates what the problem is with DRM: “What I realized is that DRM has a lot of benefits for the publisher, but next to none for the consumer. Blizzard can track exactly who plays Diablo III and when, which is valuable for gathering demographic data, off the top of my head. ComiXology can tell publishers exactly what contexts their comics will appear in and on what devices. DRM is about control, basically, rather than being a value-add. It’s a limiting service, rather than one focused on expansion, and the people most affected by it are consumers who actually want to consume this stuff.” And it does nothing to stop piracy, either. [4thletter!]

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Nice comic, but is it manga?

In 2005, when manga was the Next Big Thing, a lot of things got called manga that weren’t. But those days are long gone, so it was surprising when this popped up: The Official Firefall Manga, a comics tie-in to the online multiplayer FPS game. The comic looks decent enough, but why call it manga?

It doesn’t appear to be Japanese — the comic is by sci-fi novelist Orson Scott Card and his daughter Emily Janice Card and produced by the Canadian publisher Udon. No artist is credited, but this whole thing looks mighty North American to me.

Nor is the comic in “manga style” — OK, OK, we all know there is no single manga style, but non-Japanese comics that are labeled “manga” usually do hew to a certain set of conventions that includes big eyes, speed lines and sweatdrops. That’s not how this comic is drawn, and furthermore, it’s in color, which manga seldom is. Admittedly, there is one manga flourish in the page above: The three panels on the right that call out little details of the scene. But that isn’t uniquely Japanese; I have seen it in plenty of other comics.

So it’s hard to see what the marketing advantage was to calling this thing manga. The natural audience is people who play the game, or who play similar games, and for them, the draw is going to be the game tie-in, not the word “manga.” It’s a nice little comic but it probably won’t make much sense to anyone else. And anyone who finds it on a Google search for “manga” is going to be sorely disappointed. Just call it what it is — a comic.

It’s a comic! It’s a game! It’s a duck!

One of the pleasanter surprises of C2E2 was meeting Daniel Merlin Goodbrey, the creator of one of my favorite webcomics, All Knowledge Is Strange. Goodbrey is a past winner of the Isotope Mini-Comic Award, and he was at C2E2 to promote First Comics’ print edition of his Necessary Monsters (co-created with Sean Azzopardi). But he had something else to show me: A Duck Has an Adventure, his Android game, which uses comics elements in a choose-your-own-adventure type of format.

The game unfolds as a series of panels, and occasionally the reader is given a choice–go to college? date the girl? It’s a bit like the Game of Life reduced to its iconic form (and with a significant infusion of wit–Goodbrey is a very funny guy, in that dry, British sort of way).

“I tried to simplify the language of comics so you consume each panel really quickly,” Goodbrey said, and indeed, he does strip the images down to their basic components. The story gets more complex as you go, though, and eventually [SPOILER!] the duck meets an alternate version of itself and the two have to decide whether to work together or fight. “The more you play, the more it becomes like a puzzle experience—you figure out how to get more parts of the story to unlock,” Goodbrey said.

Although Goodbrey allows the reader to collect achievements and hats, there isn’t a lot of shooting or other skill involved; A Duck Has an Adventure reminded me of a digital version of Jason Shiga’s Meanwhile. It’s a good example of one of the many new directions digital comics can go in, with a single story having multiple branches. While the duck will set you back 99 cents, Goodbrey has another comic with a similar structure, Jack’s Abstraction, that is available for free.

Talking with Jim Zub, Part 2: What’s up with Shifty Look?

In addition to writing the standout comics Skullkickers and Makeshift Miracle, Jim Zubkavich is an avid gamer and an editor at UDON Entertainment, which publishes comics and graphic novels based on games. So it’s only natural that he would be involved in Shifty Look, a new project from Bandai Namco Games, the creator of classic games like Pac-Man and, more recently, the Naruto Shippuden game. Jim will be one of a number of creators who will be turning classic characters into webcomics… But let’s let him tell us about it.

Robot 6: Can you explain what Shifty Look is all about?

Jim: Shifty Look is an experimental new website put together by video game/media giant Namco-Bandai. They have dozens and dozens of intellectual properties in their vaults and a lot of that material hasn’t been utilized in many years.

Rob Pereyda and some of his colleagues at Namco had this brilliant idea to use a bit of seed money and see if they could refresh/reinvigorate old content in a way that wouldn’t cost a ton but could also have impact. They struck upon the concept of webcomics and brought the UDON studio on board.

We went through lists of old IPs and did a bunch of research. Some of these titles were never released in North America, some hadn’t been used at all since the 80’s… but it’s a whole new world now. Properties that might have seemed “too Japanese” back then are a perfect fit for the modern manga-reading North American audience. Other games had a visual hook we could turn into something new or even just a title that sounded like it had potential.

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NYCC | A round-up of Saturday news

Avengers Assemble

Saturday at the New York Comic Con brought news for the Avengers, Superman, Legendary Comics and … Disney’s Prep & Landing? Here’s a round-up of announcements from the show today.

• With a big, blockbuster Avengers movie scheduled for next May, Marvel announced a new ongoing series, Avengers Assemble, by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Mark Bagley. The book will launch next March and will feature most of the Avengers featured in the movie — Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye and the Hulk. The first arc will feature the villainous group the Zodiac.

• Speaking of that big, blockbuster Avengers movie, fans were treated to new footage from it featuring Bruce Banner and the Black Widow. Tom Hiddleston spoke to CBR about his work on the film.

• Marvel also announced that writer Rick Remender and artist Gabriel Hardman will take over Secret Avengers with issue #21.1, adding new members and pitting them against a new Masters of Evil.

At the Cup O’ Joe panel today, Marvel also announced a Disney/Marvel crossover — Prep & Landing: Mansion: Impossible. It features the elves from the Disney television special who prepare homes for the arrival of Santa Claus every Christmas eve — only this time they’re trying to break into Avengers Mansion to get it ready for Santa. Written by director Kevin Deters and drawn by story artist Joe Mateo, the story will run in the back of the Marvel Adventures books as well as Avengers #19 in November.

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Zubkavich and Dogan do Mafia Wars 2 comic on Facebook

Jim Zubkavich is a busy guy these days. The Skullkickers writer has just relaunched his webcomic Makeshift Miracle with a new storyline and a new artist, and last week he announced a project with a very different tone: A comic based on the soon-to-be-released Mafia Wars 2 game, illustrated by Omar Dogan.

Mafia Wars 2 is a Facebook game, and here’s the rub: To read the comic you have to not only “Like” Mafia Wars 2 on Facebook but also allow MW2 to have access to your profile. Which, if you’re already involved with the game, shouldn’t be a problem, but it still skeeves me out a bit. So I didn’t take that last step.

Game comics are not usually my thing, but I enjoyed Zubkavich and Dogan’s previous collaboration, Street Fighter Legends: Ibuki, and I’d like to check this one out. I get the logic that the way to promote a Facebook game is on Facebook, but making the game accessible only from the app greatly reduces its effectiveness as a way to bring new people in. Still, if you’re already there, it’s probably worth checking out. As for me, I’m just going to check out the newest page of Makeshift Miracle, because even without Facebook apps, there’s plenty of Zub to go around.

Magic: The Comic to debut this fall from IDW

It’s been a big week for the trading-card game Magic: The Gathering. Let’s recap:

On Monday, Gizmodo intern Alyssa Bereznak briefly took the crown as most despised person on Twitter when she revealed that she was matched up with Jon Finkel on a computer date and rejected him once she learned that he was a former M:TG world champion. This got Bereznak a ton of hate Tweets and Finkel a lot of sympathy on geek and mainstream blogs.

On Wednesday, Dark Horse released The Last Dragon, a truly gorgeous fairy tale-style fantasy illustrated by M:TG artist Rebecca Guay.

And Thursday, IDW Publishing announced it’s teaming up with Hasbro to launch a Magic: The Gathering comic book. It’s not the first M:TG comic (here’s a list), but it is the first in more than 10 years. The series launches with a four-issue miniseries about “a unique, new Planeswalker, a powerful mage with the ability to travel between worlds in the Magic Multiverse,” which of course allows for lots of flexibility when it comes to stories. Game designer Matt Forbeck is writing the comic, and Martín Cóccolo will handle the art. The comic will be available digitally as well as in print, and it will be collected into graphic novels. And naturally —y ou know they had to do this — it comes with “exclusive, playable, alternate-art cards for the MAGIC: THE GATHERING TCG,” in “select issues” of the comic.

Just … if you read it, be sure to mention that in your computer dating profile, or you might be accused of being a stealth geek. On the other hand, that apparently isn’t all bad.

Penny Arcade and PvP creators team up for new comic

Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, creators of Penny Arcade, and PvP creator Scott Kurtz have begun collaborating on a webcomic even more off-mainstream than the ones they are working on now. Those comics were just about gamers, but The Trenches, which debuted last week and updates on Tuesdays and Thursdays, is a comic about a game tester. To sweeten the deal for the target audience, the blog will feature true-life adventures sent in by readers who are game testers themselves. It seems like narrowcasting, but the humor in the opening episodes seems to be fairly broad, so maybe it won’t be as tech-y as it first sounds.

SDCC ’11 | Ape to release Cut the Rope comic based on game

Following on the success of its Pocket God comic, which was one of the top book apps of 2010, Ape Entertainment is doing another digital comic based on an iOS game: Cut the Rope. Like Pocket God, Cut the Rope will be a standalone app (although Pocket God is also available through iVerse’s Comics+ reader). No talent was announced, but the art here and in the slightly longer preview at Mashable looks more than competent.


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