Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, where we take a look at the comics, books and other things the Robot 6 crew have been reading lately. We kick off the new year with Brian Cronin from Comics Should Be Good! as our special guest. In addition to running our sister blog, Brian is also an author, having written two books on comics trivia. He also runs the blog Urban Legends Revealed, where he talks about sports and entertainment urban legends.
To see what Brian and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
It’s not every month that we get to discuss a new issue of Ethan Rilly‘s Pope Hats, but here we are. This month, AdHouse is releasing Pope Hats 3 and giving readers a chance to enjoy the latest in the unique lives of law clerk Frances Scarland and her pal Vickie (among many other distinctively engaging characters).
In an interview with Robot 6, the Toronto-born/Montreal-based storyteller talks about his view on creating covers, the impact of winning a 2008 Xeric Grant, and his inclusion of the late, great Spalding Gray in his latest issue. As much as I enjoyed reading Issue 3, as a longtime fan of Gray’s writing, I was apoplectic when I found Rilly had worked him into a strip in the latest Pope Hats installment.
Tim O’Shea: First off, a little historical perspective. Last year the Xeric Grants came to an end for comics. You won a Xeric Grant back in 2008. How instrumental was the grant to getting Pope Hats off the ground?
Ethan Rilly: It seems like 10 years ago … Of course it was a great help. It covered printing and shipping costs for the first issue. I can’t say at that point I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the series as a whole, but the seeds were there, and the grant definitely helped get the ball rolling. It’s rare as a cartoonist to receive any financial support for this type of personal work, so I was fortunate. I sometimes do freelance illustration and I get a taste of things going in the other direction—bending your creative energies toward a pre-established need. Doing your own weird exploratory thing is always best.
Passings | Cartoonist and animator Bill White has died at the age of 51. According to his Lambiek page, White studied animation at the Kubert School and was a penciler and inker for a number of publishers, including DC Comics, Marvel, Archie, Disney and Harvey. His animation work included stints on Ren and Stimpy and Inspector Gadget. Infinite Hollywood has a nice remembrance. [The Daily Cartoonist]
Comics | Jim Beard looks at the apparent contradiction between the mass popularity of superhero movies and the relatively limited audience for the comics that spawned them; Mark Waid attributes this to a lack of comics shops, while Ethan Van Sciver thinks that most people simply have a hard time reading comics. Two local retailers weigh in as well, making this an interesting and well-rounded overview of the problem. [Toledo Free Press]
If you’re a Cyclops fan and still smarting from the end of Avengers vs. X-Men, WeLoveFine.com has a constructive way to express your anger–at least more constructive than, say, unleashing a Sentinel or something. They received a ton of requests for a “Cyclops was Right” shirt (a la their “Magneto was Right” shirt) and were able to turn one around fairly quickly.
Welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading?, where today we welcome special guest Ron Marz. Marz has written everything from Green Lantern to Witchblade, and you can currently find him working on comics like Artifacts, Prophecy, Blackburn Burrow and The Ride: Southern Gothic. He also writes the column Shelf Life for Comic Book Resources and can be found on Twitter.
To see what Ron and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
Creator Ryan Estrada has created a new digital comics site, The Whole Story, that—if it succeeds—could change the whole way digital comics are sold.
The site basically delivers what people have been clamoring for: Downloadable, DRM-free comics at a reasonable price. In fact, until July 23, the starter bundle is pay-what-you-want (with a $1 minimum, which sounds reasonable). The rest of the comics are sold in bundles with various extras thrown in—it’s sort of like Kickstarter, only with instantaneous delivery. Even more Kickstarter-y: On the FAQ page, Estrada promises to make more rewards, such as being drawn into his comics, available via Twitter.
Who’s on board? A host of indy creators, that’s who: The free bundle gets you comics by Estrada and Box Brown as well as Fusion Elementary, illustrated by Nam Dong Yoon and written by Meredith Gran, Jeffrey Brown, C. Spike Trotman, and other luminaries, most of whom have made their names in the webcomics world. At the higher levels, you get more new books by Brown and Yoon, and for $200 you can get download links to share with ten friends.
By cutting out the middleman, Estrada also cuts out a lot of the nonsense involved with digital comics purchases, such as licenses, geographical restrictions, and DRM. The sales mechanism is a bit clumsy at the moment—he e-mails out the higher-priced bundles by hand—but this site might have the right combination of talent and user-friendliness to really be a game changer.
The Best of the Three Stooges Comicbooks, Vol. 1 (Papercutz) Well, here’s at least one good thing to come out of the Farrelly Brothers’ new feature film: Its production company C3 Entertainment teamed with Papercutz/NBM to produce this handsome hardcover, which collects chunks of Stooges comics from two different eras.
The best of these are from defunct publisher St. John’s early-1950s Three Stooges comic (issues 1, 4 and 5, to be precise), and were drawn by Norman Mauer, a gifted comics artist who married the real Moe’s daughter, Joan (who provides the introduction to the volume).
Mauer edited the original book (along with partner Joe Kubert), and delivered action- and gag-packed pages featuring Moe, Larry and Shemp. His designs of the central characters are incredibly strong, with Shemp and Moe much more distinctly defined than they often were in their black-and-white short films.
The pair of them are short, roundish figures who favor clown-like garb, including baggy pants and ill-fitting coats and ties. Mauer’s Larry is more elongated in appearance, and, unlike the others, has a more placid, emotionless look in his eyes.
There’s a fourth character, swindler and conman Benedict Bogus, who constantly tries to put one over on our heroes, but his schemes always end up hurting him more than them. These stories can prove rather wild and formless, as if Mauer were plotting them while drawing them, and resolving them only when he was running out of pages left to fill, but the cartooning is super-sharp, and many of the panels are a joy simply to look at.
The back half of the collection includes the first three issues of the Dell comics, by Pete Alvarado, whose artwork has a coloring-book simplicity to it, as he was aping the style of the Three Stooges cartoons of the time. For these stories, Shemp is out and Curly’s in.
Earlier this month we showcased comics-as-cookbooks, and now we find on Kickstarter a veritable buffet of comics for the foodies among us. Organized by cartoonist/small press publisher J.T. Yost, Digestate is a taster’s choice of stories by 50-plus cartoonists chronicling their own food tastes.
“Each artist has approached the theme in a manner exclusive to their own personality,” Yost says on the project’s Kickstarter page. “There are some autobiographical comics (both funny and heart-wrenching), some fictional comics, some akin to an essay and others that defy categorization altogether.”
The line-up is a “Who’s Who” of cartoonists, with everyone from Renee French and Marc Bell to James Kochalka and Alex Robinson to Keith Knight and Berkeley Breathed. On the Kickstarter page there are several of the stories to be included in the print publication, including the excellent “Bacon Vs. Asparagus with Oscar” by Jeffrey Brown, which is at the bottom of this post.
Digestate is nearly half-way to its$4,500 goal with 30 days remaining in the fundraising campaign. Compared with recent Kickstarter comics drives, $4,500 seems like a relatively small amount but Yost doesn’t say what the money specifically will be going for. Regardless, remember to tip your server!
Creators’ rights | Gerry Giovinco points out that the mega-studio that is Walt Disney got its start because Walt signed a bad contract and lost the rights to his creation Oswald the Rabbit. Giovinco calls on Disney, as the parent company of Marvel, to acknowledge and perhaps actually compensate the creators of the products it is marketing: “I can’t believe that a company as wealthy Disney cannot find a way to see the value of the good will that would be generated by establishing some sort of compensation or, at the very least, acknowledgement to the efforts put forth by these creators.” [CO2 Comics Blog]
Digital comics | John Rogers discusses working with Mark Waid on his Thrillbent digital comics initiative. “There are people who are selling enough books to make a living on Amazon, whom you’ve never heard of. Because Amazon made digital delivery cheap and easy. That is what you must do with comics. It’s not hard. The music business already solved this problem. Amazon already solved this problem. It’s not like we’re trying to build a rocketship to the moon out of cardboard boxes. Webcomics guys — and this is kind of the great heresy — solved this problem like ten years ago, using digital distribution then doing print collections and also doing advertising and stuff.” [ComicBook.com]
The latest round of “Comics-on Tees” that debuted this past weekend at C2E2 in Chicago are now available for purchase on their website. This round is “written” by Jeffrey Brown, who also contributes the design of one of the shirts, along with Jeff Lemire, Anders Nilsen, and Paul Hornschemeier. The shirts can be bought individually, or you can get all four as a set.
This is pretty wonderful … Jeffrey Brown’s latest is a Star Wars “What if?’ type book where Darth Vader was actually a decent father to Luke, despite being a Dark Lord of the Sith. Y’know, the kind of father who teaches you to raid the cookie jar using the force or takes you to Bring Your Kids to Work Day on the Death Star. Darth Vader and Son comes out April 18, and the above trailer has a brief but fun scene between the two, involving ice cream. Enjoy.
Previously they’ve recruited creators like Becky Cloonan, Mike Allred, Eduardo Risso, Jill Thompson, Colleen Coover and Tony Moore, just to name a few, to create shirts. This round will be “written” by Jeffrey Brown, who also contributes the design of one of the shirts, along with Jeff Lemire, Anders Nilsen, and Paul Hornschemeier. The shirts will debut at their booth C2E2 weekend and will be available for purchase from the Threadless site on April 16.
You’ve heard it said that children are the future, and if that’s true—and it must be, since they’ll be around for more of the future than we adults will be—it’s as true for comics as it is for whatever else people mean when they say children are the future.
So what sorts of comic books are we providing for our children, our future these days? As it turns out, some pretty good ones—hell, some pretty great ones.
This week saw the release of three particular comic books–not graphic novels or tankobon, but good-old-fashioned 20-some pages and some staples comic books—that featured superior writing and art, some of that art coming from world-class cartoonists.
And all three of those comics, oddly enough, are based on cartoon series.
When I was a child, there were comic books based on cartoons (cartoons that were often based on toy lines), and while they were readily available in drug and grocery stores, and you could buy one with a dollar bill and get change back, they weren’t exactly the highest quality product.
But some of today’s based-on-cartoons comics can put to shame much of what the “Big Six” direct market publishers release for their grown-up audiences.
Jeffrey Brown, Ming Doyle, Michael Kupperman and several other creators have contributed to The Comic Book Fan’s Worst NIGHTMARE!, a mini-comic that highlights the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund‘s current casework. In particular, the comic highlights the case of “Brandon X,” who is facing a minimum sentence of one year in prison for possessing horror and fantasy manga on his laptop computer. His case is expected to go to trial in 2012, and legal expenses are estimated to run around $150,000.