Frequent readers of ROBOT 6 know I’m a big supporter of Francesco Francavilla, and particularly his Black Beetle character. Wednesday marks the release of The Black Beetle: No Way Out #3, the penultimate issue in the first of a series of miniseries for Dark Horse. As much as I was eager to learn about the pulp-fueled noir comic, I was equally keen to chat with Francavilla about his approach toward layout and storytelling in general.
As part of the interview, Francavilla shared some preview pages for the latest issue.
Tim O’Shea: Comparing the early adventures of the Black Beetle, as shown in Night Shift versus No Way Out issues 1 and 2, how liberating did it feel to be increasingly ambitious with your layouts on the pages?
Francesco Francavilla: Very liberating. One of the tricky parts of doing Night Shift was to have three small installments (chapters) of eight pages. I wanted each single chapter to be meaty enough to be entertaining on its own, but I also wanted each chapter to end with a cliffhanger. Going from that to a full 22 pages a month with No Way Out, I have much more room now to have fun with different layouts and give extra room for some big reveal sequences.
Welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what’s been on our nightstands lately. Our guest this week is Jay Faerber, writer of Dynamo 5, Near Death and Noble Causes. The second Near Death trade just came out this week, and his new comic, Point of Impact, comes out Oct. 10.
To see what Jay and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.
As the comics community continues to process the news of Joe Kubert’s death, everything else feels very secondary. One way of honoring the legendary artist and teacher is by appreciating his art, and the art of his peers. Steve Niles discovered this series of art jams featuring a Kubert Hawkman alongside Wendy Pini’s Elfquest characters, Neal Adams’ Conan, Dave Cockrum’s Human Torch, and others. The rest of the jams include characters drawn by C.C. Beck, John Romita, John Byrne, George Perez, Gray Morrow, Dave Sim, Jack Kirby, Jim Steranko, Curt Swan, Jim Aparo, Milton Caniff, Hal Foster, Al Williamson, Chester Gould, and the list goes on and on.
I don’t know the history behind these pieces, but it occurs to me that many of these comics legends are still with us. In addition to saying our good-byes to Mr. Kubert and offering appreciations of his work, another great way to honor his legacy might be to reach out and express similar appreciation to living creators whose work we love.
Publishing | DC Comics’ Batman: Earth One, by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, topped the Nielsen BookScan list of graphic novels sold in bookstores in July, one of five Batman books to populate the Top 20. The remainder of the chart was dominated by manga — five spots, with the newest volumes of Sailor Moon and Naruto claiming Nos. 2 and 3 — The Walking Dead — three volumes, with the latest slipping from No. 1 to No. 4 — and Dark Horse’s two Avatar: The Last Airbender books, by Gene Luen Yang, both of which remain in the Top 10. [ICv2]
Publishing | Archaia CEO PJ Bickett talks about some new planned digital products and the current Archaia strategy for its books: “As of right now for 2012 we’ve really focused on some key titles and in building those out as real brands. In the past we’ve taken more of a throwing it out there and hoping for the best [approach] and now we’re taking a more strategic, targeted and strategic approach. We’re seeing a lot of great efforts as a result of it.” [ICv2]
Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading? Today our guest is Mark Sable, the writer and co-creator of Image’s Graveyard of Empires with Paul Azaceta and the upcoming Duplicate from Kickstart Comics with Andy MacDonald. You can find his work and thoughts at marksable.com and contact him @marksable on the Twitter.
To see what Mark and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below …
DC Comics this morning unveiled variant covers for Before Watchmen by Jim Steranko, Steve Rude, Paul Pope, Tim Bradstreet, Jim Lee, Cliff Chiang and David Finch.
The sprawling, and hotly debated, prequel to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, Before Watchmen debuted last month with the first issues of Minutemen, Comedian, Silk Spectre and Nite Owl, all of which landed on Diamond Comic Distributors’ Top 10 for June. According to sales estimates, all four titles broke the 100,000-copy mark. Before Watchmen: Minutemen #2 arrived in stores Wednesday.
Check out all seven variant covers below.
The greatest comics of all time don’t appear on bestseller charts or canon lists or big-box bookstore shelves. They are the property of the back issue bins and thrift store crates and convention tables of America, living like the medium itself in the unseen crags and pockets of publishing history…
Nick Fury, Agent of… S.H.I.E.L.D. #2, by Jim Steranko. Cover-dated July 1968. Published by Olympia Publications, Inc./Marvel Comics Group.
Best single drawing:
This composition never made it into the pantheon of iconic Jim Steranko centerfold images, but let’s see if we can’t rectify that oversight here, shall we? Ask me, this might be the best image of one of comics’ foremost image-makers’ career.
The Giant-Size Marvel blog found this awesome example of Jim Steranko channeling Robert Crumb by way of Friends of Ol’ Marvel (FOOM), the Marvel fan club from the ’70s. In case it’s too small to read, that’s a FOOM membership card in Hulk’s hand.
Now if someone would only uncover a lost John Buscema drawing of Mr. Natural as Odin.
If you haven’t had enough of Kerry Callen’s awesome animated comics covers — and how could you possibly have? — he’s posted a couple more on his blog. That’s Lois Lane #29 above, but click through to see him make Jim Steranko’s classic Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #4 even more psychedelic than it already was.
Passings | Tom Wilson Sr., creator of the long-running comic strip Ziggy, passed away Sept. 16. According to a press release from Universal Uclick, Wilson, 80, had suffered from a long illness and died in his sleep. For more than 35 years, Wilson served as a creative director at American Greetings. Wilson first published Ziggy in the 1969 cartoon collection When You’re Not Around. The Ziggy comic panel, syndicated by Universal Uclick (formerly Universal Press Syndicate), launched in 15 newspapers in June 1971. It now appears in more than 500 daily and Sunday newspapers and has been featured in best-selling books, calendars and greeting cards. Wilson’s son, Tom Wilson Jr., took over the strip in 1987. [Universal Uclick]
Awards | The Chill by Jason Star and Mick Bertilorenzi won an Anthony Award this weekend at Bouchercon, the annual mystery convention. The Vertigo Crime selection won in the Best Graphic Novel category, while Birds of Prey writer Duane Swierczynski took the Best Original Paperback category with his novel Expiration Date. [Examiner]
“Frogs!” in Comixscene #3 (1973). Jim Steranko.
Right down to the phrase “reading comics”, there’s something about the medium we get wrong all too often. Narrative storytelling is not inherent to comics. Other media — film, music, and even to a certain extent prose — are continuous, a single uninterrupted flow from one place to another. We assign narrative to even the most abstract works in these forms, yielding to the temptation to figure out “what they mean”. Comics, on the other hand, is a medium of constant truncations, constantly cutting itself off from panel to panel, never able to establish much narrative momentum before the view into the action switches and the story rebuilds itself again. Continuity in comics is suggested by the artist at best, and even when things are presented as clearly as possible, when they exist in multiple panels it ultimately falls to the reader to put things in sequence, to make drawing after disconnected drawing line up and make sense.
Dark Horse has posted several updates on their blog about upcoming content for the relaunched Dark Horse Presents anthology. As you can see on the cover above, the third issue will include a 13-page preview of Red Tide, “Jim Steranko’s crime-noir masterpiece.”
Issues #4, #6 and #8, meanwhile, will include Beasts of Burden stories by writer Evan Dorkin and artist Jill Thompson. “These new stories take place shortly after the events of the Hellboy crossover from last year, are self-contained, and can be easily followed by folks who haven’t read the previous comics,” Dorkin said. “I hope our regular readers will enjoy these stories—Jill’s painted artwork is as amazing as always, and there are character and background details dropped throughout the episodes that add to the overall story line we’ve been building.”
And finally, issue #4 will also include a new Criminal Macabre story by writer Steve Niles, artist Chris Mitten and colorist Michelle Madsen. “I can’t give away too much, but there are some major shocks coming for Cal fans,” Niles said. “Everything about Cal and his life is about to be whipped into a Hellish frenzy that would have the Devil himself on his heels. Plus it’s gonna be funny and I can’t say enough about Chris and Michelle’s work together. It’s perfect.”
He’s one of the godfathers of alternative comics now, but Gary Groth was once a fanboy like any other. Well, that’s not quite true, as the future Fantagraphics publisher was always a lot more enterprising than most. The illustration above of Groth in the home of Nick Fury artist Jim Steranko comes from Groth’s Fantastic Fanzine #11, available for perusal and full download at Comic Attack. The issue dates back to 1970 and chock full of juicy Steranko interviews, Dave Cockrum illustrations, and drawings of shirtless barbarians of both genders. We’re a long way from Ghost World, but you’ve gotta start somewhere!
Retailing | Well-regarded Brooklyn retailer Rocketship, whose owners confirmed just last week had closed after five years, apparently has reopened. However, it’s unclear whether that’s only temporary.
An update posted yesterday on the store’s blog reads: “Rocketship is currently open again for business. We apologize for any inconvenience over the past few weeks.” C0-owner Alex Cox had attributed the closing primarily to the end of the store’s five-year lease: “Five years went by fast, and my partner and I are suddenly making some large life decisions about what comes next. We love the shop, and as fun as it is, we have to figure out what makes sense for us on a practical level.” Cox posted yesterday on Twitter that, “Rocketship is back open for a bit; vacation is over, time to sell some books!.” [Rocketship]
Retailing | Gary Warth spotlights local comic-store owners about Comic-Con International, from the first-time exhibitors to the veterans — some of whom don’t view the event as a moneymaker. “All I ever did was just make enough to pay for next year,” said former retailer Tom Piper. [...] At the ‘Con,’ there was so much competition. I did the best I could.” [North County Times]