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Comics A.M. | U.K. artists Gordon Bell & Tony Harding pass away

"Dennis the Menace," by Gordon Bell

“Dennis the Menace,” by Gordon Bell

Passings | British cartoonist Gordon Bell has died at the age of 79. He was a contributor to DC Thomson’s children’s comics, including The Beano and The Dandy, in the 1960s and ’70s; his creations include The Bash Street Pups. After that, he went on to become a political cartoonist (under the nom de plume Fax) for the Dundee, Scotland, newspaper The Courier, which is also apparently owned by DC Thomson. Lew Stringer has posted a sampling of his work at Blimey! [The Courier]

Passings | Another U.K. creator who drew for weekly children’s comics, Anthony John “Tony” Harding, has also died. While Bell’s work was on the goofy side, Harding drew soccer stories for action-packed boys’ comics such as Bullet, Hornet and Victor. His best-known gig was as the artist for “Look Out for Lefty,” the story of a hotheaded soccer player with a skinhead girlfriend, which got a bit too close to reality with its depictions of violence during soccer games. Again, Lew Stringer posts some of his work. [Down the Tubes]

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A few words about every story in ‘Alternative Comics’ #4

alternativeAlternative Comics, the publisher of alternative comics, is back in business, with two big releases of note this month: Failure, a collection of Karl Stevens’ remarkably illustrated comic strips from the Boston Phoenix, and Alternative Comics #4, the latest installment of its showcase anthology (the first three issues were released as Free Comic Book Day giveaways, with the third issue shipping way back in 2005).

The new iteration isn’t free (in fact, it’s a $5.99, 48-page book), and it’s not coming out on Free Comic Book Day, but it is bigger, newer and perhaps even improved. To find that out, we’ll have to take a closer look at this book, edited by Marc Arsenault and featuring a lovely cover by Mike Bertino.

Here then, are a few words about every single story in Alternative Comics #4:

“Talent Goes In” by Sam Alden 
This is a four-panel, inside-front-cover strip by Alden, which amounts to little more than a picture poem. It’s not terribly profound or even substantial but that’s okay, it’s only the inside front cover. Alden has a better strip later in the book.

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This week is the Comix Institute and Emily Con at ECUAD

Today is the first day of the Comix Institute series of workshops at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. As part of its Continuing Studies program, ECUAD is hosting a variety of speakers for “a week of intensive workshops, panels, public lectures and events.” Guests include Scott Hampton, Chris Moeller, Brian Stelfreeze, Mark Smylie and various Dark Horse editors, among many others.

The workshops all go from today through Thursday and are:

Comix Storytelling with Scott Hampton and Chris Moeller
Digital Comix with Zelda Devon and Kurt Huggins
Painted Comix with Brian Stelfreeze
Independent Comix with Emily Carroll and Mark Smylie

On Friday, the university will host a Comics Industry Day with editors from Dark Horse.

While the workshops are designed as bona fide Continuing Education courses — and the prices reflect that — the week finishes up with Emily Con, a free, public event on Saturday, Sept 29. Intended to “invite the public to engage with the comic book community,” the convention will feature exhibiting comics artists from Vancouver and beyond (Ed Brisson and Rebecca Dart, to name two), how-to panels, an open comics jam, and a live taping of the Inkstuds podcast.

Other comics courses available at ECUAD include:

The Contemporary Comic with Julian Lawrence, Sept 12 – Oct 31
A History of Graphic Novels with Miriam Libicki, Oct 15 – Dec 10
Expression and Character with Julian Lawrence, Oct 25 – Dec 13
Narrative Structures in Graphic Novels with Robin Thompson, Nov 10  – Dec 15

Great comics critics serve up a holiday feast

Trimming the tree, hanging the stockings, lighting the menorah, setting up the Nativity scene, watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Scrooged back to back: The holidays are all about tradition. And two of the best comics websites around have holiday traditions of their own.

First up is Inkstuds, the comics interview podcast and radio broadcast hosted by Robin McConnell, and its annual Best of 2011 Critics Roundtable. This year McConnnell is joined by The Comics Journal‘s Tim Hodler, Joe McCulloch (aka Jog the Blog), and Robot 6’s own Matt Seneca for a truly enjoyable and insightful discussion of such titles as Big Questions, Prison Pit, Thickness, Paying For It, and Kramers Ergot 8, among many others. Radio turns out to be a terrific format for each participant, so much so that I was compulsively using every spare moment to finish the podcast — I even opened up my laptop in the passenger seat of my car and played it on the way to the drugstore. Give it a listen.

Meanwhile, Tom Spurgeon of The Comics Reporter has kicked off his much beloved by me Holiday Interview series. His inaugural interview with Art Spiegelman tackles his new book-cum-documentary MetaMaus, his stint as the Grand Prix winner of France’s massive Angoulême comic con, and his take on the legacy of the underground comix movement, while the series’ second interview examines the future of the small-press publisher Sparkplug after the death of its founder Dylan Williams with the company’s new triumvirate of Emily Nilsson, Virginia Paine, and Tom Neely. Spiegelman and Sparkplug are both vital institutions in their own ways, having put their money where their mouths are with respect to the kinds of comics they’d like to see in the world, and Spurgeon makes for a great interlocutor as they articulate their respective visions. Go and read.

The Geof Darrow Superman cover that never was…will be

Remember that unpublished cover Geof Darrow drew for J. Michael Straczynski’s “Grounded” arc on Superman that we posted the other day? Remember Darrow saying to Inkstuds’ Robin McConnell that it never ran as a cover and that “it’ll never see the light of day” despite his “really nice guy” editor’s assurances to the contrary? Good news, Darrow fans: Both Darrow and DC confirm that the finished cover will appear in Superman: Grounded Vol. 2, on sale this Wednesday, Dec. 7. The crazy cat lady will get her time in the sun at last!

Behold the Geof Darrow Superman cover that never was

I did some for DC Comics and they didn’t run it. I did a Superman cover and they gave me—the editor was a really nice guy, but he gave me some reason why they didn’t run it and I was like “Come on!”

That was recently?

Oh yeah yeah. I liked it. I thought it was funny. It was this whole thing, Superman is on a walkabout, kind of rediscovering America. They asked a bunch of guys to do like—Kevin Nowlan was one of them and they said, you can draw whatever you want. Superman, that’s the thing. He’s rediscovering America. You just can’t show him in New York. So I thought about it. I thought, “Well, flying in front of Mount Rushmore, all this stuff…” I said, “I know!” I drew him having tea with this cat lady in this room, she’s like a little old lady and she’s serving him tea and cookies and he’s sitting on her couch having tea with her and there’s all these cats around and all these pictures of her family on the wall. I thought it was funny! That’s kind of America. They didn’t run it. The issue was supposed to run and they had to change it, it was Lois Lane-centric and they had pffft! I was like…and the editor was a really nice guy, he was very “We’re going to use it someday and blah blah blah.” But I don’t think they ever will, because I’m sure someone will say, “Wait a minute…”

[laughs] “Nothing’s getting hit!”

The other ones are pretty much what you’d thought they would be, him flying with clouds—and they’re all beautiful, I just thought mine was kind of funny. But it’ll never see the light of day.

Hard Boiled and Shaolin Cowboy cartoonist Geof Darrow reveals his lost Superman cover to Inkstuds’ Robin McConnell. Looks like the Crazy Cat Lady is one villain not even the Man of Steel could defeat.

In all seriousness, though, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of McConnell’s career-spanning interview with Darrow, originally conducted and aired in February and recently transcribed in full on the Inkstuds website. Darrow has stealthily become one of the most influential comics artists in the English-language comics world — recent works by Chris Burnham, Brandon Graham, James Stokoe, Rafael Grampa, Nate Simpson, Ulises Farinas, and Sam Humphries & Steven Sanders all bear his imprint in one way or another — and McConnell’s interview is a treasure trove of anecdotes about Miller, Moebius, Métal Hurlant, The Matrix, and more.

The day indie rock defeated Alan Moore: Al Columbia reveals what happened to Big Numbers #4

Is this the only Big Numbers #4 art you'll ever see?

Is this the only Big Numbers #4 art you'll ever see?

It’s one of comics’ greatest mysteries, and Inkstuds interviewer extraordinaire Robin McConnell just solved it. And the answer involves…’90s indie-rock icons Sebadoh?

McConnell covers a lot of incredibly fascinating ground in his astonishingly candid and in-depth interview with cartoonist Al Columbia — do not say “tl;dl” to the two-hour podcast — but he also cuts right to the chase, asking the mercurial artist what, exactly, happened to the artwork he created for Watchmen demigod Alan Moore’s great lost comic Big Numbers #4. As you might recall from our post on Columbia’s one-time mentor Bill Sienkiewicz’s recent words on the subject, Big Numbers was intended to be Moore’s magnum opus.

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Saturday Shelf Porn!

Hello and welcome once again to Shelf Porn, now on Saturdays! Today’s Shelf Porn is courtesy of Robin McConnell from the Inkstuds radio show and who recently published a book collecting many of his interviews with comic creators.

If you’d like to share your collection with the world, please email a write-up and pictures to jkparkin@yahoo.com. As I said last week, we’re always looking for collections large or small, even if it’s just a picture or two … I’ve got a couple of single pictures I’ll group together into one post when I get a few more in. So send’em today!

And now here’s Robin …

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The coolest Best of 2010 list you’ve ever listened to

The latest episode of Robin McConnell’s indispensable comics podcast Inkstuds is a fun one: It’s a critics’ roundtable on the best comics of 2010, featuring Chris Butcher, Bill Kartalopoulos, and Tucker Stone. It’s a rare treat to hear any of these guys talk at length about great comics: Tucker is the busy manager of Brooklyn’s Bergen Street Comics and divides most of his writing time these days between film, music, and kicking the crap out of the latest Wednesday shipment; old-school comics blogospherian Chris has mostly moved away from criticism in favor of running Toronto’s beloved Beguiling comics shop and organizing TCAF; and Bill’s thoughts on comics are generally reserved for the lucky few who take his classes at Parsons, sit in on the panels he organizes and moderates for SPX and BCGF, or visit the comic art exhibitions he curates. To hear the three of them bat around the likes of Joe Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza, Brecht Evens’s The Wrong Place, Dash Shaw’s Bodyworld, Blaise Larmee’s Young Lions, the comics of Michael DeForge, Charles Burns’s X’ed Out, and Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez’s Love and Rockets: New Stories #3 is to hear three great comics minds pull apart what worked — and what didn’t — in some of the year’s most notable and forward-looking releases. Standout moments include Bill’s point on how improved color reproduction has given artists the freedom to do more with color than simply filling in the lines, Chris’s admission that he’s just never been in the right place to read Footnotes, and Tucker’s arguments for why both of Los Bros Hernandez handed in some of their best-ever work in the latest L&R.

Robot 6, Comics Comics, Inkstuds, and the Best of 2009

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Are you like LL Cool J in that you can’t live without your radio — but nor can you live without your comics? I know the feeling. That’s why I was so excited to be a part of the annual best-of episode of Inkstuds, the venerable comics podcast hosted by Robin McConnell. My fellow Robot 6-er Chris Mautner and I were joined by Comics Comics’ Tim Hodler to discuss Asterios Polyp, George Sprott, 20th Century Boys, Pluto, You Are There, You’ll Never Know, Multiforce, and The Photographer, and we even found the time to debate whether or not we’re in a comics Golden Age. Give it a listen!


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