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The ‘Supermag’ story: An interview with Jim Rugg

Supermag_tease

Jim Rugg is an interesting and fun guy to talk to. The Pittsburgh-based cartoonists, whose resume includes such diverse genre work as Street Angel, Adventure Time and the Plain Jane series for DC’s late Minx imprint, is someone who has clearly studied comics -– and certain comic artists specifically -– very closely, and has a genuine fascination and curiosity for what makes the medium work and what doesn’t. If you want to talk comics, he’s the guy to corner at the bar after the convention (be polite and introduce yourself first though, please).

Rugg has a new comic out, a magazine-formatted, one-man anthology of sorts from AdHouse titled Supermag, which features a number of short stories done over the past few years as well some illustrations and other new material. It’s a pretty nifty package.

I chatted with Rugg over email about Supermag, his frequent collaborations with writer Brian Maruca and the podcast he hosts over at Boing Boing, Tell Me Something I Don’t Know. I look forward to the opportunity when I get to talk to him about comics some more.

How did the idea for Supermag come about and how did the initial concept change (if at all) as you started to put it together? 

Supermag began as an early- to mid-90s period comic. My plan was to create an Afrodisiac comic using the processes, materials, storytelling vernacular, and style of that era – a comparison would be something like 1963. As we worked on that idea, I struggled to make all the elements work the way I wanted. As I continued to work on it, it morphed into a magazine/comic/art project.

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Jim Rugg remembers that time Scarlett wed Cobra Commander

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These Jim Rugg-drawn variant covers for IDW Publishing’s G.I. Joe Special Missions comic aren’t exactly new, and in fact some of them have already been released into the wild, but I thought they were worth sharing because a) they’re awesome, b) I haven’t seen them before, at least not all together, so maybe you haven’t either, and c) seeing them as group shows Rugg has a theme going with them.

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Jim Rugg goes Extreme in Rob Liefeld tribute pin-up

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Some people wear their influences on their sleeve, while others absorb it into their own style and, from time to time, shout it from the rooftops.

Jim Rugg is doing the latter in a stunning pin-up he created for the recent Extreme Comics fanzine Rub The Blood. Extreme is the brainchild of Rob Liefeld, whose divisive style earned him legions of fans, including it seems Rugg.

Rugg’s choices for which characters to display from Liefeld’s ouvre runs the gamut from his Marvel co-creation Cable to his creator-owned work like Youngblood‘s Chapel (done in a style reminiscent of Jae Lee’s take on the character) and solo stars Prophet, Bloodstrike: Assassin and Bloodwulf.

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What Are You Reading? with Chris Sims

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Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at all the comics and other stuff we’ve been checking out lately. Today our special guest is Chris Sims, senior writer for ComicsAlliance, blogger at Chris’s Invincible Super Blog and writer of comics like Dracula the Unconquered and Awesome Hospital.

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

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Comics A.M. | ‘Building Stories’ wins Lynd Ward Prize

Building Stories

Building Stories

Awards | The 2013 Lynd Ward Prize for Graphic Novel of the Year, presented by Penn State University Libraries and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, has been awarded to Chris Ware’s Building Stories. The jury’s comment: “Ware’s astute and precise renderings, composed with a tender yet unblinking clinical eye and fleshed out with pristine and evocative coloring, trace the mundane routines and moments of small crisis that his characters inhabit. In so doing, he produces not a document but a monument, a work whose narrative logic is architectural rather than chronological: a set of lives to be encountered, traversed, and returned to as the rooms and floors of a building might be over the years, still sequentially but not in a limited or decided-upon sequence. Stories, here, are meant not to be told but to be built, explored, inhabited—not merely visited but lived in.” [Pennsylvania Center for the Book]

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Comics A.M. | How stable are sales of DC’s New 52 titles?

Justice League #1

Justice League #1

Publishing | Todd Allen analyzes the sales of DC Comics’ New 52 titles from their September 2011 launch to the past month. Sales of any series tend to drop off from one issue to the next — Allen compares it to radioactive decay — and when the numbers drop below 18,000 for a couple of titles, DC tends to cancel them in batches and start up new titles to replace them. That plus crossovers and strong sales of some flagship titles has kept the line fairly stable until recently, but as Allen notes, the replacement titles tend to crash and burn pretty quickly, and overall sales have dipped a bit. [Publishers Weekly]

History | David Brothers has a great column for Black History Month, featuring Krazy Kat, All-Negro Comics and other titles by black creators. [Comics Alliance]

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Comics A.M. | Warner Bros. Entertainment names new CEO

Kevin Tsujihara

Business | In a surprise announcement, Kevin Tsujihara was announced Monday to succeed Barry Meyer as CEO of Warner Bros. Entertainment, the parent company of DC Entertainment. The 48-year-old Tsujihara, who has been with Warner Bros. since 1994, was named in 2005 as president of the Home Entertainment Group, overseeing the company’s home video, digital distribution, video games, anti-piracy and emerging technology operations. He was chosen as CEO over Bruce Rosenbaum, president of Warner Bros. Television, and Jeff Robinov, president of Warner Bros. Pictures (under which DC Entertainment is placed in the corporate structure). [The Hollywood Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Gene Luen Yang announces two-volume graphic novel

From "Boxers and Saints"

Creators | Gene Luen Yang, creator of American Born Chinese, has revealed his latest project Boxers and Saints, a set of two graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion in China; one story is about a peasant who joins the Boxers, while the other is about a woman who converts to Catholicism. First Second will publish them as a slipcased set. There’s a 10-page preview as well as an interview at the link. [Wired]

Comics | Jim Rugg notices that his print copy of Hellboy in Hell doesn’t look as good as his friend’s digital copy, and where most of us would have just shrugged and moved on, he takes the time to think about why that is and how careful publishers can ensure that print comics look their best. [Jim Rugg]

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Looking Forward, Looking Back | Creators weigh in on 2012 and 2013 (Part 1)

Five Weapons

It’s become an annual tradition here during our birthday bash: No matter how much stuff we line up, people we interview, etc., there are still tons of folks we like to hear from and include in our giant New Year’s/anniversary/birthday activities. So, as we’ve done in past years, we asked a cross-section of comics folks what they liked in 2012 and what they’re excited about for 2013. We received so many this year that we’ve broken it down into two posts; watch for another one Tuesday.

But for now, check out all the great stuff people shared with us, including hints at new projects and even some outright announcements. Our thanks to everyone this year who responded. Also, thanks to Tim O’Shea, Michael May and Chris Arrant, who helped collect responses.

JIMMIE ROBINSON (Bomb Queen, Five Weapons)

What was your favorite comic of 2012?

Image’s Saga, Fatale, Hawkeye‘s reinvention is fresh and exciting, Peter Panzerfaust, Enormous by Tim Daniel. It’s hard to pin down just one because there is SO much good work coming out nowadays — from many publishers across the board.

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Jim Rugg makes a zine

Jim Rugg has a fascinating post on his blog spelling out how he made his latest zine, a collection of old comics ads. It starts with an idea and runs through every part of the creation process, including such nuts-and-bolts matters as getting paper and refurbished printer cartridges to cut down the cost. Rugg and collaborator Jason Lex started by pulling out the old comics and picking the best of the ads, then put them together into a PDF.

There were lots of things to consider, including matching the type of paper in the zine to the originals the ads were printed on, and I like it that Rugg came up with the idea for some nice finishing touches during a long-distance run. The post ends with a little something extra — a vintage ad followed by John Porcellino’s comic based on it. It’s a really nice how-I-did-it post with some useful information for would-be self-publishers, and plenty of visual goodies for the rest of us.

Comics A.M. | Blade of the Immortal manga to end after 19 years

Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 25

Manga | Hiroaki Samura will bring his long-running samurai revenge epic Blade of the Immortal to a close in the February issue of Kodansha’s Monthly Afternoon magazine (on stands Dec. 25) after 19 years. The series is published in the United States by Dark Horse; the 25th volume was released in North America in August. [Anime News Network]

Political cartoons | NPR talks to several editorial cartoonists about the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo‘s decision to run cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed. The general sense seems to be that while the magazine had the right to do so, it wasn’t a good idea given the turmoil already caused by the YouTube trailer for Innocence of Muslims. Politico cartoonist Matt Wuerker said, “Over the last few years, people have gotten the idea that cartoons are radioactive because they have the power to inspire riots. That doesn’t help cartooning in a certain sense.” And Daryl Cagle observes that the long-term effect is to make editors more timid. [NPR]

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Comics A.M. | Publisher Filip Sablik leaves Top Cow Productions

Filip Sablik

Publishing | Heidi MacDonald catches word that Top Cow Publisher Filip Sablik is moving on to a new job, which will be announced next month at Comic-Con International (Rich Johnston contends that gig is at BOOM! Studios). Friday will be Sablik’s last day at Top Cow; Social Marketing Coordinator Jessi Reid will assume his marketing duties. [The Beat, Bleeding Cool]

Creators | Through its partnership with the Small Press Expo, the Library of Congress has acquired works by cartoonists Matt Bors, Keith Knight, Jim Rugg, Jen Sorensen, Raina Telgemeier, Matthew Thurber and Jim Woodring. Dean Haspiel’s minicomics collection was added to the holdings just last week. [Comic Riffs]

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Comics A.M. | MorrisonCon’s $500 tickets already sold out

Grant Morrison

Conventions | Despite the $500-plus price tag, the least-expensive tickets for MorrisonCon, the Grant Morrison-focused convention being held in September in Las Vegas, are already sold out. Remaining tickets cost between $699 and $1,099. Morrison says the high-priced event combines “visionary ideas, occult ritual, music and spoken word performances, art workshops, experimental films, DJ sets and in-depth discussions inspired by the comics.” [Hero Complex]

Publishing | Industry veteran Jim “Ski” Sokolowski, who was let go in October as Marvel’s chief operating officer ahead of a round of layoffs, has been hired by Archie Comics as senior vice president-sales and business development. The publisher also promoted Harold Buchholz from executive director of publishing and operations to senior vice president-publishing and operations, Paul Kaminski from editor to executive director of editorial, and Alex Segura from executive director of publicity and marketing to vice president-publicity and marketing. [Archie Comics]

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Jim Rugg and a Bic pen — a solo exhibit in L.A.’s iam8bit gallery

After winning over the comics faithful with Street Angel and Afrodisiac, Jim Rugg has become a pencil-carrying force in independent comics. He was enlisted by major publishers to draw books like DC’s PLAIN Janes and Dark Horse’s The Guild series, and even partnered with rock stars such as in the book One Model Nation. Next month he’s poppping up as a guest artist on DC/Vertigo’s iZombie #24, but before that he’s doing something even more special: a solo exhibition of ball-point pen drawings on notebook paper.

Titled Notebook Nerd – Jim Rugg, this exhibit at the iam8bit gallery in Los Angeles will show a side of his art comics fan haven’t seen much of — the complex linework possible with a simple ballpoint pen. Dubbed by the gallery as a “Swiss Army Knife of artists,” Rugg is seemingly pulling back to an earlier era — one of calculator wristwatches, pocket protectors and Trapper Keepers.

The exhibit will open on Friday, May 25 at iam8bit’s gallery on Sunset Boulevard, and continue through June 24.

Hung poster won’t hang at one Pittsburgh retailer

One Pittsburgh retailer didn’t find the poster for Jim Rugg’s upcoming art show, This #*?! Isn’t Very Funny, very funny.

The poster, which advertises a show that kicks off March 29 at Pittsburgh’s ToonSeum, features a crotch-level shot of a superhero who is wearing his underwear on the outside of his costume. According to the ToonSeum Facebook page, Pittsburgh comic book store Eide’s Entertainment “refuses to put up poster for comic artist Jim Rugg’s upcoming show, unless it is censored.” In the comments thread that follows, ToonSeum added, “So we did ask that they place it downstairs, respectful that they may not want to put it in the window. The objection was that it features a male crotch in underwear.”

I’m not sure if the poster ToonSeum asked Eide’s to hang was the black-and-white version, pictured to the right, or the color version, which you can see in my original post about the art show. I’m guessing it is the black-and-white one, where it might be difficult to tell that the superhero is wearing a costume under the underwear and isn’t just walking around in his skivvies.

I reached out to Jim Rugg to see what he thought, and he provided me with this statement:

“I like the store that refused to hang up my poster so I don’t want this to sound negative. I think it is up to a retailer to decide whether they want to promote an event or hang up a poster. I contacted several stores, and made it clear that I would understand if they did not want to put up my poster in their store. I expected some resistance from some stores. I was surprised that this store objected. One of the things I like about their store is that they carry a wide range of material – art books, European comics (I’ve been buying a lot of old Catalan Communications graphic novels from them over the last year and last time I was there, they had a copy of the Compleat Sally Forth, which I had spent a long time looking for – picked up a copy at Heroes last year so anyone looking for a copy, these guys have one).

“They are an old school comic book shop, and I have a soft spot for old school comic book shops. When I started reading comics, comics felt a little dangerous based on the reactions I’d see among adults, and this store maintains that atmosphere. They are also a music and movie store and they display a ton of posters and other content that seems potentially more controversial than this poster (my favorite are Double Impact action figures). I’m personally disappointed they chose not to help promote the show. I’m surprised they would show the poster if it were censored because it doesn’t seem provocative to me. I chose this image because I thought it was an obvious nod to the history of comics, particularly the once dominant superhero genre, without being offensive. But I don’t want this to be an indictment against the store. I like their store. I’ve bought a ton of comics from them over the years, and I intend to continue to support them. The last thing I want to do is suggest a retailer is wrong. Any retailer than can maintain a store in today’s economy deserves a lot of credit. And they certainly know their customer base a lot better than I do.”


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