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Six things DC Comics is doing right

AdventuresofSuperman1DC Comics hasn’t had a particularly good run of things lately. To be frank, the publisher has done blown it a number of times over the past few years. But don’t worry, DC fans — I’m sure it’ll soon be Marvel’s turn, as the two rivals seem to trade off every five years or so.

I’ve been calling out DC for the past couple of weeks, but that doesn’t mean everything it does strikes me as wrong. It’s important to declare shenanigans, but it’s also important to recognize when a publisher does something that’s good for comics.

So here are six things DC is doing right:

1. Digital comics: Legends of the Dark Knight and Adventures of Superman are digital-first anthology series that feature some excellent creators (from Jeff Parker and Chris Samnee to J.M. DeMatteis and Jeff Lemire) producing completely accessible and entertaining stories that stand on their own; no college course on the New 52 or Crisis on Infinite Earths required. Yes, these stories are out of continuity — so for a percentage of readers, they don’t count. That’s a mistake, because there’s nothing wrong with a straight-up superhero tale that exists on its own terms. These two anthologies are the gems of DC’s digital-first line-up, but Batman ’66 and Batman: Li’l Gotham also offer fantastical takes on the iconic Caped Crusader that are bright and fun. For those exhausted by the angsty versions of serious stories, you owe it to yourself to check these out.

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Crisis on Earth-3D!: Villains Month, Week 3

rabbit

I read all 13 of the Villains Month issues released this week by DC Comics, and in so doing I saw 89 people killed (Kryptonians and Thanagarians included) in all manner of ways. I saw people shot to death with laser guns, with regular old bullet guns, with eye-beams, with an arrow and even with an umbrella. I saw people stabbed, bludgeoned, impaled, decapitated, blown up, pushed off buildings, flash-frozen and shattered. I saw someone’s neck snapped, someone’s life-force magically drained, people sliced in half with psionic energy, and others torn to pieces by claws.

I saw a bestial woman eat the still-beating hearts of her victims.

But man, the rabbit that Arcane tore in half? That’s the image that sticks with me from this week’s Villains Week offerings. Thank God they didn’t put that on the cover; imagine that arc of rabbit innards being flung your way in lenticular 3D!

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Crisis on Earth-3D!: Villains Month, Week One

forever evil

If you’ve been keeping up with the events in the DC Universe, then you know things are looking particularly grim for the good guys.

At the conclusion of “Trinity War,” the Justice Leagues faced an invasion from the Crime Syndicate of Earth-3 — “The birthplace of all evil,” as one character called it — evil counterparts of the Justice League. In the first issue of Forever Evil, these villains claimed to have killed all of the Justice Leaguers, they freed all the supervillains from all the super-prisons and organized them into an army called The Secret Society, they did some awful things to Nightwing and then even moved the moon to permanently block out the sun.

Those jerks.

To mark the occasion of evil temporarily winning (again), DC declared September Villains Month, and is interrupting the ongoing adventures of its heroes with special “.1″ issues starring various villains. Each of these was to bear a fancy plastic 3D cover that jacked the price up a buck and ultimately created shortages, an artificial collectors/speculators market and irritated a whole bunch of retailers, many of whom were already pretty irritated by having to figure out how to order something like, say, Justice League #23.3: Dial E, which fused one of the publisher’s best selling comics with one of its worst.

We — and by that I mean you and I, for the course of this post — aren’t going to concern ourselves with that aspect of the books, however. Instead, let’s look under those covers, whether they’re the fancy plastic 3D ones or the regular, cheaper “standard edition” ones and concern ourselves with the quality of the comics concealed behind the covers.

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Murderer’s Row of creators sink their teeth into ‘American Vampire Anthology’

AV_ANTHOLOGY-tease

While American Vampire is currently on hiatus, creators Scott Snyder and Rafael Albuquerque have killed time until its return by releasing various specials. Earlier this summer we saw The Long Road to Hell, and this past Wednesday brought the American Vampire Anthology, featuring vampire tales by Becky Cloonan, Francesco Francavilla, Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, Jason Aaron, Gabriel Ba, Fabio Moon, Jeff Lemire, John Paul Leon, Declan Shalvey and many more.

Anthologies can be hit or miss from story to story, but how did this one do? Here are a few reviews from around the web:

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Comics A.M. | Disney gets OK for massive new TV & film studio

The Walt Disney Studios

The Walt Disney Studios

Business | The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved Disney’s plan to build a 58-acre television and film production facility on the sprawling Golden Oak Ranch, near Santa Clarita, California. Located less than an hour north of Los Angeles, the 890-acre ranch has been owned by Disney since 1959, serving as the backdrop for projects ranging from Little House on the Prairie to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Pirates of the Caribbean: The World’s End. ABC Studios has been producing more series than Disney’s Burbank facilities can handle, requiring additional sound stages to be rented. The new facility is targeted for completion in 2016.

Marvel Animation opened a new studio early last year in Glendale, just minutes from Disney’s Burbank lot. Marvel Studios later followed suit, moving from Manhattan Beach to new offices in Glendale. [TheWrap]

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People seem to be flipping for Jeff Lemire’s ‘Trillium #1′

Trillium1

Jeff Lemire’s next big project for Vertigo, following his run on Sweet Tooth, kicked off this week. Trillium #1 sees Lemire return to both writing and art duties after a few months of focusing just on the writing half of the equation with comics like Green Arrow and Animal Man. Reuniting with colorist Jose Villarrubia, who worked with him on Sweet Tooth, Lemire “combines rich historical adventure and mind-bending science fiction into a sprawling, unconventional love story.” Plus, it’s a flipbook!

What did people think of the first issue? Here are a few thoughts from around the web.

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Annual report: Reviews of DC’s 2013 summer annuals

annuals

The comic book annual has, in recent years, become an endangered species. Once an oversized, extra-length dose of the characters and concepts a reader could count on appearing once a year (or, you know, annually), the changing funny-book landscape has made them a less appealing proposition.

The rise of the graphic novel and trade paperback collections made “novel-length” adventures appearing in actual, off-the-rack comic books somewhat obsolete. The rising price of comics helped make annuals seem less practical; if a 20- or 22-page comic costs $2.99 or $3.99, a 48- or 56- or 64-page one would be prohibitively expensive. And with the shrunken market, it doesn’t make sense for a publisher to release an additional, extra-long issue of almost every title in its line.

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Grumpy Old Fan | ‘Trinity War’ is testing the old ways

Pandora holds that evil skull like my daughter holds her stuffed bunnies

Pandora holds that evil skull like my daughter holds her stuffed bunnies

The first part of “Trinity War” (in last week’s Justice League #22) relied rather significantly on the changes the New 52 relaunch facilitated: Superman, Wonder Woman, and Billy Batson/Shazam (hereinafter “Billy/Shazam,” or maybe just “Captain Marvel”) each acted in ways incompatible with long relationships.

In the old days, Superman and Wonder Woman would have been close friends, Superman and Captain Marvel would have had a unique (almost mentor-protegé) relationship, and Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel would at least have had some Greek mythology in common. However, the main conflicts of “TW” Part 1 depended on Wonder Woman being more of a warrior than an ambassador, Superman trusting her hostility, and Billy/Shazam not knowing either of them that well. As such, it appeared to exemplify the freedom a relaunch confers, specifically to ignore the restrictions of previous developments to put these characters quickly on opposing sides.

In other words, one might reasonably have seen Part 1 as a) realizing the New 52 allowed for a particular Shocking Event and b) working backward to create the conditions that would lead to said Event. “Because we can do this, how do we do it?”

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SDCC ’13 | T-minus one day until Comic-Con

"Wonder Woman: Earth One" art by Yanick Paquette

“Wonder Woman: Earth One” art by Yanick Paquette

With all of the hustle and bustle and early announcements, it may be a little difficult to believe, but Preview Night is still a day away, and Comic-Con International doesn’t officially begin until Thursday. By that time, we should be fully exhausted.

But before we experience information overload, let’s take a look at  some of the pre-convention information trickling in, ranging from trolley schedules to etiquette and survival guides to where to live it up while in San Diego:

Entertainment Weekly highlights ‘five comics to watch” during Comic-Con: Marvel’s Inhuman and “Inhumanity,” Grant Morrison and Yanick Paquette’s Wonder Woman: Earth One, DC’s “Villains Month,” the 10th anniversary of The Walking Dead, and Jeff Lemire’s Trillium.

• The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System has increased trolley service on the Green Line, which provides direct transportation to the stations in front of the San Diego Convention Center. Service also will be expanded throughout Comic-Con; see a complete rundown on the MTS website.

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Joe Shuster Award nominees announced

Saga1coverByFionaStaplesThe nominees have been announced for the 2013 Joe Shuster Awards, and faithful readers of Robot 6 will notice many familiar names on the list, including Fiona Staples, Brandon Graham, Jim Zubkavich, Ryan North and Darwyn Cooke. As you can see from that sampling, the nominees are broad in terms of styles and genres.

Named in honor of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster, the awards recognize the best of the Canadian comics world; nominees must be either Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Canada. The nominees are chosen by a committee and the winners by a jury, so there is no public vote. The awards will be presented Aug. 25 at a location to be announced later.

And with no further ado, here are the nominees:

Artist

• Isabelle Arsenault – Jane, le renard & moi (La Pastèque)
• Patrick Boutin-Gagné – Brögunn (Soleil)
• Stuart Immonen – All-New X-Men #1-4, AvX: VS #1, #6, Avenging Spider-Man #7, Secret Avengers #21 (Marvel Comics)
• Yanick Paquette – Swamp Thing #5, 7-9, 13-14 (DC Comics)
• Ramón K. Pérez – John Carter and the Gods of Mars #1-5, AvX:VS #6 (Marvel Comics)
• Fiona Staples – Saga #1-8 (Image Comics)
• Marcus To – Batwing #9-15, 0, The Flash #10,15, Huntress #4-6 (DC Comics)

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Comics A.M. | Rick Perry at odds with newspaper over cartoon

ohman cartoon

Editorial cartoons | Michael Cavna interviews Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s demand that the newspaper apologize for an April 25 cartoon in which the politician is depicted boasting that “Business is booming in Texas!” beneath a banner that reads, “Low Tax! Low Regs!,” juxtaposed with an image of the deadly fertilizer-plant explosion in West, Texas. “It was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon,” Perry wrote in a letter to the editor. “While I will always welcome healthy policy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans.” Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has reportedly called for Ohman to be fired.

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Comics A.M. | Manga sales down, but cons & scanlation sites thrive

Gate 7, Vol. 3

Gate 7, Vol. 3

Manga | Call it the Manga Paradox: Manga sales are way down, but traffic on scanlation sites is robust and attendance at anime conventions is way up. What’s the story? I crunched some numbers and talked to some publishers to get a picture of the new normal for the manga market in North America. [Publishers Weekly]

Comics | A collection of 60,000 comics sold for $200,000 at auction over the weekend in East Vancouver. It seems impressive until you do the math and realize that’s a little more than three bucks a comic. The star of the collection was a restored Hulk comic that went for $6,500. [CBC]

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WonderCon ’13 | A round-up of news from Friday

Earth-2 Batman

Earth-2 Batman

WonderCon Anaheim 2013 kicked off yesterday at the Anaheim Convention Center, with badges for Friday selling out at some point during the day. Saturday and three-day badges already sold out, so it looks like just Sunday is left if you were hoping to attend but didn’t purchase your badge in advance.

There weren’t a lot of announcements coming out of the show yesterday, and in fact I’m not completely sure what could be considered “WonderCon news” and what was just, um, news, but here’s a round-up of stuff you may have missed from Friday:

• 2014 will bring a crossover between DC’s two Earths, according to Earth 2 writer James Robinson. “If I’m talking about a big event that’s happening in 2014, it’s all these characters meeting each other,” said Robinson, citing Crisis on Infinite Earths and the Justice Society during his spotlight panel in Anaheim. Robinson also said his goal was to make sure the writers involved in the event were invested in the story, and described himself as “the point guy” when it comes to the event, saying that Scott Snyder, Geoff Johns and Dan DiDio are also very involved. Earth 2 is also getting its own Batman, and the book will also feature the introductions of Starman (Ted Knight), Red Arrow (Earth 2′s version of Green Arrow), Hourman, Wildcat, Mister Miracle and Big Barda in the future.

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Talking Comics with Tim | Andrea Sorrentino on ‘Green Arrow’

Green Arrow 19

Green Arrow 19

Italian artist Andrea Sorrentino first garnered major attention for his work in late 2011 on DC Comics’ New 52 title I, Vampire. Beginning with Green Arrow #17, Sorrentino teamed with writer Jeff Lemire to become the series’ new regular creative team. Shortly after that first issue debuted, Sorrentino agreed to an interview regarding his new assignment, and in particular his artistic approach on some of the scenes for that first issue.

In addition to featuring some of the pages (which we discuss) from Green Arrow #17, DC also provided some exclusive black-and-white art for Green Arrow #20 (set for release on May 1). Green Arrow #18 has been on stands since March 6; Green Arrow #19 arrives April 3.

Tim O’Shea: In Ryan Lindsay’s CBR review of Green Arrow #17, he wrote, “Sorrentino uses insert panels to highlight certain dramatic and bombastic moments amidst the kinetic action, such as when Queen is ambushed and gets into an arrow fight. This skill set, used consistently but not overbearingly, allows Sorrentino to slow some pages down, deliver detail on multiple planes of a panel, and also brings movement to a static image.” How much do you and writer Jeff Lemire the design and layout of pages, since he is an artist as well? Or does he leave you alone to design the pages as you want?

Andrea Sorrentino: I’d say it’s a mix of his and my ideas. Jeff is a (very good) artist and has a very personal way of making layouts in his created-owner works, so he did bring some of them in this project, too. In this case there was in the script the idea of some little panels that would focus on some parts of a bigger image or scene to make some details of the action to pop from the page. This would give the idea of how tactical Oliver’s mind can be during a confusing moment like the one in Emerson’s office. I discussed the idea with Jeff and used the same solution in order to set the pace of the scene. The main goal was to use those inset panels to try to give a feeling of “slow-motion” effect by guiding the reader’s eye to focus and zoom a bit on some details of the action slowing the time of reading in contrast with the main scene that is delivered in the bigger panel (and at a faster pace). It’s something we’re used to seeing a lot in some movies (especially in recent years) and I was trying to reach for something similar here.

Apart from this, I’ve to say that working with Jeff has been awesome till now and I’m really improving a lot just by talking and collaborating with him.

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What Are You Reading? with Tim Lattie

from Phonogram: The Singles Club

Welcome to What Are You Reading?, where the Robot 6 crew shares their picks for who we think should play a young Han Solo. Of course, we unanimously chose Nathan Fillion, so instead we’ll talk about what comics we’ve been reading. Joining us today is special guest Tim Lattie, the creator of Night Stars. Tim is currently running a Kickstarter to raise funds to publish it, so head over there and check it out.

To see what Tim and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.

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