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Comics A.M. | Tunisian broadcaster fined for airing Persepolis

Persepolis

Legal | A Tunisian court last week convicted Nessma TV President Nebil Karoui of “disturbing public order” and “threatening public morals” by broadcasting the animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, which features a scene that briefly shows an image of God. The Oct. 7 airing resulted in an attempted arson attack on the network’s offices and the arrest of some 50 protesters. Karoui was fined $1,600 by the five-judge panel; two members of his staff were fined $800 each. Prosecutors and attorneys representing Islamist groups pushed for Karoui to be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Others argued for the death penalty. [The Washington Post]

Business | Target will stop selling Amazon’s Kindle devices in its stores over a dispute regarding “showrooming,” where consumers check out a product at Target stores and then go home to buy it on Amazon for a cheaper price. Around Christmas, Amazon’s Price Check app gave shoppers a 5 percent discount on any item scanned at a retail store. “What we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices,” Target executives wrote in a letter to vendors. Target will continue to carry Apple’s iPad, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and the Aluratek Libre. [The New York Times]

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A thousand-piece puzzle without the frame: McCann talks Mind the Gap

On the surface it may not look like The Return of The Dapper Men, Hawkeye and Mockingbird, and Mind the Gap have much in common, beyond the fact that they are all written by Jim McCann. One’s a fairy tale, one’s a straight up superhero comic and the third McCann describes as a “thriller mystery” with some “preternatural” elements.

But McCann says they have more in common than you might think, or at least that I thought. Last week when I interviewed him about his new Image series, McCann drew parallels between Mind the Gap and those two previous projects, noting that he had plans for a big central mystery for his run on Hawkeye and Mockingbird that never came to pass.

“With Hawkeye and Mockingbird, unfortunately that series was cancelled, but I had a two-year plan for that, and it started to lay a couple of seeds early on,” McCann told me. “Brian Bendis picked up on one of them that occurred in the last issue of Hawkeye and Mockingbird, issue #6. There was a brief moment between Clint Barton and Jessica Drew that was supposed to set up a fling between the two of them. We had talked about that before, and when the series ended he was able to take it and run with it. So there are still some ideas out there that were able to live on. I like to plan things out no matter what the story is. I think it’s important to know your ending, and I think it’s fun to plant Easter eggs and seeds.”

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Robot 6 Q&A | Zak Sally on Sammy the Mouse

Sammy the Mouse Vol. 1

I was first introduced to Zak Sally’s work via Recidivist, his collection of short stories, which knocked my proverbial socks off. I remember in particular being struck by his  gravitas and willingness to poke at uncomfortable and dark places, not to mention his pitch-black sense of humor.

Sally has only gotten better since then, a fact most easily verified by his work on Sammy the Mouse, an ongoing, ostensibly funny-animal story that was initially serialized as part of Fantagraphics’ Ignatz series.

Now Sally has collected those three Ignatz issues and collected them into a smaller trade paperback, published via his own imprint, La Mano 21. In the true D.I.Y. spirit, Sally didn’t just stop there, but went on to even print the comic himself, using a 2-color press he bought.

I recently talked to Sally over email about the new Sammy collection, his decision to become a printer as well as a publisher and how his experience as a musician (he was a member of the band Low and recently released a solo album) informs his work as a cartoonist. I was touched and gratified by his candor and thoughtfulness, not to mention his willingness to answer my prickly, annoyingly personal questions with honesty and aplomb.

I wanted to start by asking you about your decision to not only publish the book yourself but print it as well. How did you get ahold of a printing press?

Well, in 2004 someone told me about one that’s been sitting in a basement here in Minneapolis, and it was going for $250. at that point in my life, it seemed like an idea worth trying, and a natural extension of doing zines/ self publishing etc. and the price was certainly right. Six years later i found a newer model, with 2-color capabilities, for $500. I sold my old press and quickly found out why the new one had gone for so cheap.

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Robot 6 Q&A | Koren Shadmi on The Abaddon

Koren Shadmi’s webcomic The Abaddon is like nothing else in comics today. Loosely based on Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit, it is the story of a man who is trapped in an apartment with four very dysfunctional roommates and no way out. Shadmi’s hero, Ter, arrives at the door with a bandage around his head and no backstory, although little bits of memories start flashing through as the story progresses. Part I of the story is complete and available as a webcomic, and Shadmi is raising funds for Part II via Kickstarter. He reached his goal today, but there are still some pledge awards left, although the big one—being drawn into the comic, which would basically immortalize the donor as an embodiment of Sartre’s famous line “Hell is other people”—has been taken.

I was curious about the genesis of this comic and where Shadmi plans to go with it, so I fired off some questions. .

Robot 6: In your Kickstarter intro, you say that The Abaddon was inspired by Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit. Can you explain what interested you about it and how you developed it into this very different story?

Koren Shadmi: When I was in college I took an existentialism class and we read No Exit. When I read it something really struck a chord in me, it’s very minimal and eerie, unsettling in a very subtle way. In the play hell is just a room with three people who make each other miserable. There are little hints to that the characters are not really in ‘the real world’, but those are really understated – which makes for a disturbing setting. I thought I would take the core of the play – a group of dysfunctional roommates locked in the same place together – and elaborate on it. It’s not clear though if they are in hell in my version, and I think the mystery about what exactly is The Abaddon, and who the characters are, that helps propel the story. 

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Robot 6 Q&A | Nonplayer’s Nate Simpson on the art (and business) of comics

Editor’s note: With Tim O’Shea being out this week, Chris Arrant was kind enough to step in and provide an interview for us this Monday. Tim will be back next week.

One of the most exciting new talents to come into comics last year was cartoonist Nate Simpson with the debut of Nonplayer #1 last April. It was made official when, only three months later, he received the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award at Comic-Con International in San Diego. Since then he’s gotten a movie deal and been approached with a variety of comic opportunities, but also had his share of bad luck with a broken collarbone in September. 2011 was a year to remember for Nate Simpson.

Now Simpson is back at the drawing board working on Nonplayer #2, but his whirlwind success (and spill) forced the cartoonist to take a more earnest look at this business he left his full-time career in video games for back in 2009. On his workblog he says it best, describing it as place where he “learns to draw comics by drawing a comic.” And what he’s learned is that there’s a lot more to comics than just drawing them. I talked with Simpson this past weekend about the status of Nonplayer #2, his outlook on comics, and the struggle between seeing comics as an art form and seeing them as a business.

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Robot 6 Q&A | Ivan Salazar joins 407 Studios as public relations and marketing manager

Ivan Salazar

Ivan Salazar probably isn’t someone a lot of comic fans would know, but those of us on the press side have likely had some sort of interaction with him or gotten some assistance from him over the past few years. I first met him a couple of years ago while he was working for BOOM! Studios, where he worked with Chip Mosher, their former marketing and sales director. Ivan, Chip and the other members of the team worked together on several big initiatives, like press conferences with Stan Lee at the San Diego Comic Con and the BOOM! RV at ComicsPro.

Salazar left BOOM! not long ago and recently got back in touch with me to let me know he was now public relations and marketing manager for Studio 407. I wasn’t very familiar with them, so I asked him a few questions about both his old job and his new one.

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Exclusive: Ted Naifeh’s Courtney Crumrin ongoing starts in April

Add another comic to the list of ongoing series starring awesome female characters. Starting in April, Oni Press will publish a full-color Courtney Crumrin monthly series by creator Ted Naifeh. The continuing adventures of Naifeh’s girl monster-hunter is in addition, by the way, to next month’s Polly and the Pirates, Volume 2, written by Naifeh with art by Robbi Rodriguez, so 2012 is already shaping up to be an excellent year for young heroines.

I got to talk to Naifeh a little about Courtney Crumrin and his plans for the series:

Michael May: Thanks for talking with me, Ted. Let’s start with you. What scared you as a kid?

Ted Naifeh: Just about everything. Around the time I was Courtney Crumrin’s age, I was going to summer camp, and they told us some of the lamest fireside ghost stories you could imagine. I think they deliberately stuck with silly, half-baked stories. Or maybe they were chosen because they were local. Seriously, one was a frontier nurse whose hand was crushed in a mine accident, and so they sewed on the hand of a dead miner who apparently turned out to be a mad strangler. That was about the caliber. But damn if they didn’t scare the bejeezus out of me. That nurse followed me home and kept me scared for a year. A few years later, the first half hour of the movie Basket Case freaked me out so bad I didn’t sleep all night. I never did see the rest.

Now I realize I was just a super anxious kid and the scary stories were what my anxieties found to latch onto. Growing out of that phase really felt like a triumph, like I had, in a way, traversed a monster-infested underworld and come out the other side. Years later, I found myself relating so deeply to the kid in Sixth Sense it was astonishing. Like him, I learned to make friends with the monsters.

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Creator Q&A: Matthew Thurber

1-800-MICE

It can be hard to describe Matthew Thurber‘s comics. Certain phrases like surreal, absurd and dream-like get thrown around a lot and while they’re all true, it doesn’t accurately capture the free-form playfulness of his work or the way he manages to make his work both bizarre and accessible at the same time.

His latest book 1-800-MICE, now available in stores via Picturebox, is his longest narrative yet. An epic tale set in the imaginary town of Volcano Park, the book juggles a rather large cast of characters and their competing subplots as  various political and social groups strive for dominance in the town, not realizing that their actions may result in their own destruction. If that sounds rather grim, rest assured the book remains delightfully nonsensical and silly (in the best sense of the word), full of concepts like bagpipes that also serve as teleporters or rocket ships that run on urine. It’s off-kilter and disarming but never falls apart and is a surprisingly straightforward and easy-to-follow read. In short, it’s pretty great.

I talked to Thurber over the phone from his home in Brooklyn, N.Y., about the new book and the challenges of doing a longer and more involved narrative:

Give me a bit of biographical background about yourself. Have you always been interested in making comics?

I was always interested in anything with a narrative. When I was a kid I made movies and comic books with my friends. My friends Tom and Jeff had this series called The Killer Pigs. It was a sci-fi story. This was when I 10. They were making comics and I imitated them but I was also interested in making more professional versions of the Killer Pigs. I’d put a little Marvel Comics symbol in the upper left hand corner. My background was being into Dungeons and Dragons and comics, making videos with my friends and reading all kinds of books.

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SDCC ’11 | Grant Morrison on the Atom

I might still like to do the Atom. I think there’s something great to be done with the Atom that hasn’t been done yet…I like the idea of doing an Atom story where he can only shrink to a certain size for each episode. One of the things I felt didn’t work about the Atom was that he was up and down [in height] and could do anything. I thought it would be really good to do stories of a guy who has so much power to shrink that he does it for missions when he’s brought in. So it’s slightly more Indiana Jones, where this guy works as a professor during the day, but sometimes he’ll get a call from the President — “There’s monsters in the White House carpet” kinda stuff. — and he comes in and deals with that. But in another episode he might just shrink to six inches and be chased around a room by bad guys and cats and dogs, like Incredible Shrinking Man stuff. I thought there’s a sci-fi series in there, where each issue is him at a different scale. In some he could be trapped at a molecular scale, and in other ones he’s one inch and trapped in the garden.

Action Comics and Supergods writer and superhero-revamper extraordinaire Grant Morrison in conversation with CBR’s Jonah Weiland, who asked him what B-list characters he’d still like to take a crack at. And hey, Morrison’s proven his proficiency with sprawling supporting-player revamps in the past with projects like Seven Soldiers (not to mention the upcoming Multiversity, which he says will have a similar focus on DC’s deep bench), so would it be out of the question for him to throw a Ryan Choi: Rebirth and Atom Incorporated into the mix? For now, I’ll file this with his much-discussed desire to write Wonder Woman under projects we’ll hopefully get to see one day.

Watch the entire video above for more Morrison commentary on the Lois & Clark marriage, Superman’s costume, Action Comics, New X-Men, Supergods, Sinatoro and more.

SDCC ’11 | Nate Powell explores Any Empire

Any Empire

Nate Powell wowed indie readers back in 2009 with the release of Swallow Me Whole, a haunting graphic novel about a teen-age brother and sister suffering from mental illness and attempting to hold themselves and their family together.

Now Powell has released his follow-up to Swallow, Any Empire. The book, available through Top Shelf, examines the way children are taught about war and violence and how even “acceptable” military violence can end up appearing on our city and town streets.

The book debuts in San Diego this week, and should be in stores next month. We talked to Powell about the book and its underlying themes, both political and social.

Let’s start by talking about the book’s origins. How did Any Empire first take shape?

Well, the book emerged as I was finishing up Swallow Me Whole, and I’d been pretty impacted by the books Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker, On Killing by Dave Grossman, the movie Children of Men, and also a zine supplement in an LP by some friends Please Inform The Captain This Is A Hijack. I’d been very focused on the long history of the state’s prime directive of ensuring its own existence, even if that meant killing or imprisoning its own citizens, or provoking air raids to flatten its own cities for a “proper” moral justification for war (as was one of Churchill’s many shadier moments leading into WWII). We’ve all grown up accustomed to seeing smoldering wastelands on CNN, but I began imagining the rubble as buildings, transplanting foliage back onto the blight, and couldn’t stop imagining my own neighborhood as a wasteland indistinguishable from the ones I’m so used to seeing on the news.

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Robot 6 Q&A | Cruz and Bermingham on Udon’s RandomVeus

RandomVeus

Back in May Udon Entertainment announced they were launching a line of original graphic novels, starting with a book called RandomVeus. Created by Jeffrey Cruz and co-writer Leonard Bermingham, the book features a bouffant-sporting hero and a team of couriers as they “deliver mysterious packages to every corner of the wild world known as the RandomVeus! Octopus ninjas, jazz-playing demons, buxom lady-pirates, cyborg gorillas, samurai mushrooms, and one giant furry squid monster are all on tap in this zaniest of zany adventures!”

The book debuts this week in San Diego and can be found at the Udon booth, #5037. I spoke with Cruz and Bermingham about it, their backgrounds and more.

JK: Tell me a little bit about yourselves. Where do you live and how did you meet?

Leonard: OK. I have been a comic fan since I was eight since a got into comics through the awesome X-Men and Spider-Man cartoons. Been a fan ever since. I found I really got into writing when I was in university where I met Jeff. I went and did a Masters of Creative Media to try and sharpen my writing. That’s my origin story I guess.

Jeff: Well I’m from Melbourne, Australia. I enjoy my sequential art reading, which consist primarily of European and Asian books (there are American comics also) heh. Although drawing pretty much takes up a majority of my life (love it) and I’m not sure I’d want it any other way.

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Robot 6 Q&A | Rick Geary discusses his Treasury of Murder series

Rick Geary is in San Diego right now, debuting the latest volume in his Treasury of XXth Century Murder series, The Lives of Sacco and Vanzetti. He took a moment on the way to talk to us about the story, his attraction to murders, and the challenges of writing about the past—and he told us what his next book will be.

Robot 6: Why are you so interested in murder, and how has it held your interest through so many books?

Rick Geary: I’ve been a “fan” of crime, both fiction and non-fiction, since the early 1970s. I lived in Wichita, Kansas, and a friend of mine, a former cop, gave me a copy of the complete police file on an unsolved murder in Wichita from the 1960s. It fascinated me, and I used it as the subject of my first published comic story in 1977. Since then, the exploration of the dark side of human behavior has been a continuing obsession.

Robot 6:Would you ever do a book about a modern murder story, or do you prefer to stick to stories set in the past?

Rick: I prefer dealing with cases from the past, because with them the urgency and emotionalism have dissipated, and I’m able to get the proper ironic distance in my treatment. That said, I’d love someday to do the OJ Simpson case or JonBenet Ramsey or even Casey Anthony.

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Tom Neely unleashes The Wolf: a preview and interview

from The Wolf by Tom Neely

from The Wolf by Tom Neely

There’s not much I can say by way of an introduction to Tom Neely that the above image can’t do better. Combining the gangly, jaunty character designs of classic comic icons like E.C. Segar’s Popeye and Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse with a take on horror that’s equal parts metal album cover, ’70s horror mag, and sexualized Surrealism, Neely’s comics, paintings, and illustrations wed a high level of craft to intense imagery that often literally tears its characters apart. It’s a style Neely has deployed with surprising versatility since the high-profile release of his self-published graphic novel debut The Blot in 2007; in that time he’s riffed directly on his influences with the Popeye reinterpretation Doppelgänger and the horror-mag cover collection Neely Covers Comics to Give You the Creeps!, adapted the songs of punk mainstays the Melvins in Your Disease Spread Quick, created a series of strip-format comic poems in Brilliantly Ham-fisted, put an alternative spin on the gag comic in the anthology Bound & Gagged, and most famously helped craft an ode to the timeless love affair of hardcore legends Henry Rollins and Glenn Danzig in Henry & Glenn Forever. I’ve enjoyed all these comics. But The Wolf, Neely’s new self-published full-length graphic novel, is the leader of the pack.

It’s easy to enjoy (if that’s the right word) The Wolf as a thrilling, chilling onslaught of monsters, bloody combat, and graphic sex — and indeed I do. But beneath the werewolves and zombies and tree-headed monks is a moving exploration of couplehood, as our male and female protagonists deal with the pain of the past and the threats of the present in order to build a (literally) brighter future together. As with The Blot, The Wolf‘s wordlessness emphasizes Neely’s powerful images, with a clever use of single splashes and double-page spreads propelling us through a story that at any moment can toggle between nightmare, wet dream, and peaceful reverie. It’s like life with the volume cranked up.

With The Wolf‘s release party scheduled for this Friday, July 8, at L.A.’s Secret Headquarters (although you can already purchase a copy through Neely’s website), Neely has provided Robot 6 with a selection of preview pages from throughout the book, and took the time to answer a few questions about its origins, influences, style, substance, subtext, sex scene, and more.

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Exclusive preview and interview: Explore Yuichi Yokoyama’s Garden of unearthly delights

It’s always a good sign, and a rare blessing, when you close a comic and say to yourself, “Well, I’ve certainly never seen anything like that before.” Such was my reaction to Garden, the upcoming PictureBox graphic novel from acclaimed manga artist Yuichi Yokoyama (currently in Previews for a May 4 release; Diamond code MAR111221). Sure, this is the same guy who made guys throwing books at one another as exciting a fight scene as anything out of Kill Bill in his collection New Engineering. It’s the same guy who made a bunch of dudes taking a ride on the train as thrilling as Jack Kirby drawing someone hijacking the Moebius Chair and going on a joyride through Apokalips in his book Travel. But Garden takes Yokoyama’s unique combination of deadpan characters, robotically clean lines, zany costumes, epic sets and scenery, and hyper-caffeinated action to a whole new level. It’s like a magical mental amusement park.

The plot of Garden is pure simplicity: A crowd of would-be sightseers (all wearing costumes and headgear that make them look like a lost Kinnikuman toyline) sneak into a sprawling “garden” filled with inexplicable, incredible sights and structures, from a river of rubber balls and a forest filled with disassembled cars to mountains made of glass and a massive hallway filled with floating bubbles. The endlessly chatty characters slowly walk, climb, swing, float, and otherwise make their way through the environments and obstacles, constantly narrating as they go. (“Now what could this be?” “It’s a field of boulders.” “All the boulders have ladders on them.” “Let’s climb it.”) By explaining exactly what’s happening at all times, the little explorers make following Yokoyama’s often kaleidoscopic art a breeze, freeing you to simply marvel at the sheer scale and scope of his imagination (and chuckle at the the crazy stuff the characters encounter). The overall effect is like being strapped in for a ride through some Bizarro Disney World where every single attraction is as colossal and otherworldly as the big Spaceship Earth golfball, as fast as Space Mountain, and as dizzying as the Mad Tea Party.

Courtesy of PictureBox, Robot 6 is pleased to present this exclusive eight-page preview of Garden, and an interview with Yokoyama about the book, in which the cartoonist gives us some fascinating answers — about his love for the collision between the natural and artificial, his goal in including all that dialogue, and why size matters — and raises just as many compelling questions.

(Special thanks to Dan Nadel and Yu Marooka for their help in facilitating and translating this interview respectively.)

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“Just to demonstrate that it’s possible”: Ben Katchor on The Cardboard Valise

There’s nothing else in the world quite like Ben Katchor’s comics. Perhaps that’s because there’s nothing in the world quite like the people and places you’ll find in them. Best known for his newspaper strip Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer, Katchor is an inventor of lost culture. His comics chronicle imaginary occupations and cultural attractions, like an island whose economy revolves around tourists visiting the ruins of abandoned public restrooms, “humane hamburgers” consisting of tiny slices of meat snipped from still-living cows so gently that they barely notice, or a seaside cellphone stand whose employees hold their phones aloft at the shore for ten minutes at a time so callers can hear the sounds of the ocean for a price. All of these things are just this side of plausible, feeling like old-fashioned customs that have been rendered obsolete or great ideas that never caught on, drowned out by the bustle of life in the big city.

But in his upcoming book The Cardboard Valise, due out on March 8 from Pantheon, Katchor takes a journey beyond his customary imaginary American-urban setting. This collection of strips culled from a variety of publications tells the loosely intertwined stories of two men dealing with our increasingly small world in two very different fashions: One is a literal travel addict who can’t stop visiting distant lands and cultures; the other proudly and loudly denounces the very notion of differing nations and customs, seeking to wipe out the physical and psychological borders that divide the world. Unsurprisingly, Katchor proves himself just as adept at chronicling the dislocations of travel and internationalism as he is at showing us (to use the subtitle of one of his books) the pleasures of urban decay.

As part of Robot 6’s second anniversary spectacular, Katchor allowed us to pick his brain about his new book, the allure of exoticism, the danger of nationalism, print vs. digital, and making the impossible possible.

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