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The Middle Ground #92 | What’s The Buzz, Tell Me What’s The Happenin’

Whether by plan or happenstance, it looks like 2012 is likely to turn into the year when Image Comics is more relevant to the comic industry than it’s been since it was first founded 20 years ago. The publisher isn’t just at the center of multiple conversations about the future of the industry as it stands today, it’s on the “right side” of the argument in so many (if not all) of them. Continue Reading »


Apple adds comics section to the iTunes bookstore

When Apple opened its iTunes bookstore last year, comics and graphic novels were just mixed in with everything else. That changed today, as Apple introduced its Comics and Graphic Novels Section.

The selection is rather eclectic, with everything from Harvey Pekar’s Cleveland to The Walking Dead to How to Draw Manga. There are separate sections for Marvel, children’s comics, and collections of newspaper strips, which is a great idea, but everything else is a bit of a mishmash. (Most of these books were already in the iTunes bookstore; this page just collects them in one place for easy browsing.) In addition to Marvel and Image, the publishers represented include IDW (with their Locke and Key books), Archie, Seven Seas, and Manga University—but I didn’t see any DC titles. It’s definitely a bookish selection, but there are some bargains—and even some freebies—to be had.

Food or Comics? | Bulletproof Coffee: Disincaffeinated

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.

Fantastic Life

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d try something new first with the Xeric-winning Fantastic Life GN (Big If, $9.95) by Kevin Mutch. I’ll always give Xeric winners a second look, and this looks built for me: slackers, punk rock, zombies. Next up I’d get the ongoing adventures of Butcher Baker – the Image one – with Butcher Baker Righteous Maker #8 ($2.99). I’ll admit that the series went off a little bit around #5, but I’m still holding on for hopes it’ll right itself or I’ll figure out what I’d been missing. Lastly, I’d get Secret Avengers #21.1 (Marvel, $2.99). Seriously, is Rick Remender becoming the writer of all-things secret in the Marvel U? I’m not complaining though, as he’s bringing his Uncanny X-Force mojo and, from what it looks like, a lot of new cast members.

If I had $30, I’d get my usual pull of The Walking Dead #93 (Image, $2.99) and a Hickman two-fer, Fantastic Four #602 (Marvel, $2.99) and FF #14 (Marvel, $2.99). If you would have told me two years ago I’d be seeing two Fantastic Four titles (and two I’d be reading, no less) I would have been gobsmacked. Hickman does it again. And that’s it.

What, you say I didn’t spend my full $30? It’s a light week for me, so I’d spending the remaining on bags and boards or, *gasp*, food as it says in the title. Tijuana Flats, Taco Tuesday, be there.

Coming back if I could splurge, and I’d put down my tacos and pick up the ADD HC (Vertigo, $24.99) by Douglas Rushkoff, Goran Sudzuka and Jose Marzan Jr. From the outside it looks like The Hunger Games meets Ender’s Game, and Rushkoff looks to be just the one to make that mash-up more than, well, a mash-up.

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Previews: What Looks Good for March

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes and first issues so that we don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Batwoman is still awesome!” every month. And we’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.

One cool change this month and for the foreseeable future: I’m joined by Graeme McMillan who’ll also be pointing out his favorites.

Finally, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell us what we missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Abrams Comicarts

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist – I admit, I tend to run hot and cold on Clowes’ output, but I’m a sucker for coffee-table career retrospectives, so the idea of taking 224 pages to look back at his career to date (with, of course, the traditional little-seen artwork and commentary) seems like a must-look at the very least. [Graeme]

Abstract Studios

Rachel Rising, Volume 1: The Shadow of Death – Terry Moore’s latest series gets its first collection and I love the premise of a woman’s waking up in a shallow grave with no memory of how she got there and needing to figure out who tried to kill to her. [Michael]

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NYT best-sellers: Scott Pilgrim’s finest hour

Tim Leong, the art director for Wired and former editor-in-chief of Comic Foundry magazine, has come up with a pretty amazing infographic tracking the titles that have appeared on the New York Times paperback “graphic books” over the past year. The chart is great, but Tim also did some solid number-crunching, and there are lots of interesting results, starting with the fact that the charts were dominated not by Marvel or DC, but by Oni Press and Image.

This doesn’t speak so much about comics as a whole as about a particular segment of the comics world: graphic novels and collected editions. Marvel and DC still dominate the world of single-issue comics sold in the direct market, but the Times looks at sales from independent and chain bookstores, online booksellers and newsstands, as well as comics shops. In that world, two indie properties, both backed by media tie-ins, ruled in 2011. (It would be interesting to see how the hardback charts compare; my guess is that they are more superhero-centric.)

The Hollywood Reporter makes a big deal about The Walking Dead dominating the charts this past week, saying, “No graphic novel series has ever dominated the list quite like Kirkman’s Walking Dead,” although a glance at Leong’s chart makes it clear that Scott Pilgrim dominated even more, with the six volumes of Scott Pilgrim spending a total of 167 weeks on the charts compared to 102 weeks for the seven volumes of The Walking Dead. Incidentally, the next two books were Watchmen (of course!) and The Adventures of Ook and Gluck, Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, which is a kids’ graphic novel by the author of the Captain Underpants books.

Leong’s graphic provides a lot of food for thought. What happened in September, for instance, when all the Scott Pilgrim and Walking Dead books pretty much disappeared from the charts? (I looked at the charts for those weeks and nothing jumped out at me, but who knows?) What happened to the five books that came in at No. 1 and then disappeared? And is it better to hit the top spot for a couple of weeks or sit at a lower rank for almost a year? It’s hard to see behind the rankings to hard numbers, but it does seem that the bookstore market is nurturing some diversity.

Preview: The Activity #2 by Edmondson and Gerads

The Activity

Courtesy of writer Nathan Edmondson (Grifter, Who Is Jake Ellis?), we’re pleased to present a preview of the second issue of The Activity, which goes on sale Jan. 11. Illustrated by Mitch Gerads and published by Image Comics, The Activity debuted this past week and focuses on the U.S Army’s last secret special operations tribe, The Intelligence Support Activity, or Gray Fox. Within Gray Fox is a team of elite men and women whose mission is flexible, whose technology is bleeding edge, and whose execution is precise and lethal. They are Team Omaha, and they serve The Activity.

“After the overwhelming response to issue #1, we’re primed to light the fuse on issue #2, out in just two weeks!” Edmondson said about the preview.

Check out the preview and solicitation text after the jump. You can read more about the series in CBR’s interview with Edmondson about the book.

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ComiXology launches new webstore with big holiday sales

One of the reasons that the digital comics distributor comiXology has done so well is that it syncs well across a number of platforms, including iOS, Android and the web. Their web store is convenient for those who prefer browsing and buying on their computer, but the Flash-based interface is a bit buggy—it never scrolled properly in my Safari browser, for instance—so I was happy to hear that they have relaunched the web store using HTML5 for the browsing and buying interface.

They also redesigned it, which is a relief; if I have one complaint about comiXology, it’s their tendency to throw a bewildering array of comics onto the screen all at once. The original webstore put a ton of comics on the front page (a page that didn’t scroll properly, remember), while this new one mirrors the design of their iPad app, with a smaller selection and tabs to allow the reader to go deeper. Navigation is pretty straightforward—the site is a little slow, but it is still in beta. The comics reader is still in Flash for now.

ComiXology CEO David Steinberger has more details at the comiXology blog, and I spoke to him about the new storefront yesterday. While the iOS app remains the most popular channel, he said, “More and more people actually use our website, once they discover it, to shop and buy, and I hope with the HTML5 release, more will do that.” One of the new features of the web store is that users can gift a cart, rather than just a single comic. “Right now we are going to finish releasing all of Bone, so you will be able to add the whole Bone series to your card and gift it to somebody,” Steinberger said. “We have Sandman at a very competitive price to the paperback. Comics people create more comics people by getting in tune with their friends and gifting them comics.”

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Thoughts on the FCBD Gold comics

Free Comic Book Day is only six months away, and the FCBD folks started the drumbeat on Friday with the announcement of the Gold Sponsor comics. I didn’t realize this was a competition:

“We had a record amount of entries from publishers this year with more than forty-five different titles” said FCBD spokesperson Leslie Jackson. “Retailers on the committee had a tough time deciding on which titles to choose for Gold sponsorship, but we’re sure fans will be pleased with the line-up for next year.”

While the choices may have been difficult, it’s hard to imagine that someone couldn’t come up with something more enticing than what Image has to offer: “An anthology featuring all-new stories with a mix of Image’s old and new best loved characters!” Could you possibly get any vaguer than that? They don’t even have a cover design. If my comic got bumped for that, I’d be steaming. On the other hand, Archaia’s 48-page hardcover, featuring new material (not reprints or bits of something to come) looks mighty sweet, all the more so because they name names: A Mouse Guard story from David Petersen, a Jim Henson’s Labyrinth story by Ted Naifeh and Cory Godbey, a side story from Royden Lepp’s new graphic novel Rust, a Cursed Pirate Girl story from Jeremy Bastian, a Cow Boy story by Chris Eliopoulos and Nate Crosby, and a Dapper Men tale from Jim McCann and Janet Lee. There’s this year’s wow factor.

The line-up actually seemed pretty obvious to me, so I went back and looked at the Gold Sponsors for the past five years. Sure enough, six of the publishers are there every year: Archie, Dark Horse, DC, IDW, Image, Marvel. Since five of these are also Diamond’s premier publishers, and Archie is a newsstand juggernaut, there’s no surprise there. BOOM! Studios has been a Gold Sponsor for the past four years and Archaia for the past three. The other slots vary: Ape Entertainment was a Gold Sponsor in 2011 and 2010 but is missing this year, and Bongo and Oni are back after a two-year absence. Others who have popped up once or twice in the past five years: NBM/Papercutz (2011), Drawn & Quarterly (2010), Viz (2008 and 2009), Dynamite (2008), Virgin (2008), Gemstone (2007), and Tokyopop (2007).

There’s more to come: The Silver Sponsors will be announced next week.

Previews: What looks good for December

The Dare Detectives: The Snow Pea Plot

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “ Life with Archie is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.

Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Ape

Richie Rich Gems Winter Special - In addition to their modern-look Richie Rich, Ape has also re-introducied the classic version in both new and reprinted adventures. I missed the solicit for Richie Rich Gems #44 last month (which picked up where the Harvey series left off in 1982), but the series continues with not only the Winter Special, but #45 as well.

Arcana

Dragons vs Dinosaurs - I haven’t had great luck with Arcana’s books in the past, but c’mon. The title alone…

Hero Happy Hour: On the Rocks - This, on the other hand, is no risk at all. I’m a big fan of Dan Taylor and Chris Fason’s superhero bar stories and this is an all-new, 80-page adventure. Not reprints; not even a printed version of the webcomic. It’s all-new and I need it.

Archaia

The Dare Detectives: The Snow Pea Plot Collected Edition – Archaia prepares for their publishing Ben Caldwell’s Dare Detectives: The Kula Kola Caper by re-publishing the first story that was originally put out by Dark Horse.

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Preview: Veitch and Erskine’s The Big Lie

The Big Lie

This September Image Comics will release Rick Veitch and Gary Erskine’s The Big Lie, and no doubt it will turn some heads. It’s the story of a lab technician who travels back in time to the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and she has one hour to try and get her husband out of the World Trade Center before it falls.

You can read more about it at USA Today, and check out the preview after the jump.

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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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Talking Comics with Tim | Charles Soule

27

During HeroesCon earlier this month, I ran into 27 writer Charles Soule. Being a big fan of music (and comics of course), I was ashamed to admit that I had not run across his series (which launched last year from Image/Shadowline), built upon the rock and roll legend about certain very brilliant musicians dying at the age of twenty-seven. With the trade paperback of the first four issues set to go on sale this Wednesday, Soule and I settled in for a quick email interview. I was intrigued to learn about Soule’s contest for readers. Also, we talk about e sure to read to the end of this interview for a mention of Vanilla Ice.

Tim O’Shea: While at the heart of the tale, the threat of death looms–and yet as you note in this November 2010 CBR interview 27‘s theme is “really creativity”. Can you talk about why you wanted to explore the concept of creativity partially through death?

Charles Soule: Jumping right into the heavy stuff, eh? Fine by me. The “hook” to 27 revolves around the many brilliant musicians and artists who have died at age twenty-seven – they’re known in rock and roll mythology as the “27 Club,” and the idea is that there’s some sort of curse that takes particularly talented individuals well before their time. In the 27 comic, Will Garland, a superstar guitar hero, turns twenty-seven and his life falls apart. His hand gets hit with a nerve disease that makes him unable to play, and all sorts of other terrible things start to occur that make him realize he’s been hit by the curse. From there, he has to try to beat the curse and live to see twenty-eight. Lots of supernatural craziness, lots of rock music lore, lots of thrills, chills and guitar fills.

But as you noted, that’s just the surface story – the carnival barker tease that gets people in the freakshow tent. The deeper theme is creativity; why do some people seem almost compelled to make art, and what does that cost them? Why are some amazing talents taken young, and, of course, is it better to burn out or fade away (to, er, re-coin a phrase)? These are big questions, and I thought they were worth exploring. Most people are creative to some extent, and the ‘why’ of it all is worth trying to unravel.

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Frank Cho to bring back Liberty Meadows

Good news for Liberty Meadows fans: Frank Cho is working on the long-awaited issue #38, after dropping plans (for now) to make it into an animated cartoon.

Liberty Meadows was originally a newspaper strip, but Cho’s art and sense of humor kept bumping up against editorial standards, and he ended syndication in 2001; “I got tired of the censorship and the low pay,” he told CBR in a 2006 interview, adding that his weakest strips were rush jobs done to fill in for strips that editors refused to run. Cho moved to a comic book format, first self-published, then through Image, but he put Liberty Meadows on hiatus in 2004, after issue #36. Issue #37 came out in 2009.

Cho let loose on his blog about his frustrations with Sony, which acquired the rights to create a downloadable Liberty Meadows cartoon for their Sony Digital division. Here’s his account of how that went:

I wrote the original pilot episode but it was rejected for being too “risque”. So other writers were brought in to tone it down and make it more kid friendly. Once I read the rewrite, I thought it completely missed the point of Liberty Meadows. So I rewrote the rewrite, and this went back and forth couple of times until we reached a compromised script. We turned that script into an traditional 2D animated pilot episode.

Enter Sony Television division. They saw the pilot episode and liked it. Liberty Meadows get bumped up to their television division and a TV series is planned. However there is one request, Sony Television people wanted Liberty Meadows to be more “risque” with adult humor like the “Family Guy”. This is the point where I rip my hair out in frustration.

Then the recession hit and all the executives involved with the project left the company. Fortunately, Cho’s contract had an inactivity clause (something the Tokyopop creators could have benefited from) so the rights have now reverted back to him.

His plan for now is to simply go back to drawing the strip, although he doesn’t rule out another movie or TV deal “if the right offer comes along.”

Graphicly expands to the Nook, but apps are hard to find

Nice book... but where is it?

Barnes & Noble’s unveiled its app store for the Nook Color e-reader, yesterday, edging the $249 device even closer to being an alternative to the iPad. And Graphicly was right there at the launch with three graphic novel apps Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, Wanted, and Irredeemable.

This is not Graphicly’s fault, but the Nook Color app store is not very well organized; they have cute headings like “Explore” and “Organize” but not “Comics” or even “Read.” Plugging the titles in to the search engine gave mixed results: The Mouse Guard app turned up alongside listings for the physical books. Clicking on the title brought me straight back to the generic Nook Apps page. I couldn’t find Wanted or Irredeemable at all. Maybe if I had a Nook it would be easier, but the website should be as well organized as the built-in app store.

The bottom line is this: It’s great that Nook is getting into apps, and it’s great that Graphicly was there on Day One. But if no one can find your books, no one can buy them, and unless Barnes & Noble comes up with a better way to feature content than this—vague categories and no complete listing of all the apps—they aren’t going to move many comics.

Comics A.M. | Spider-Man musical producers ‘stepped in dog poo’

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris, producers of the troubled Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, talk candidly about the $70-million musical — or “$65 plus plus,” as Cohl says — as it shuts down for more than three weeks for a sweeping overhaul. Will the production, plagued by delays, technical mishaps, injuries and negative reviews, hurt their reputation? “It might,” Cohl concedes. “It’s a matter of the respect of those whose opinions I care about. Most will recognize that Jere and I stepped in dog poo and are trying to clean it up and pull off a miracle. We might not.”

In related news, Christopher Tierney, the actor who was seriously injured on Dec. 20 after plummeting 30 feet during a performance, will rejoin rehearsals on Monday. [Bloomberg, The Hollywood Reporter]

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