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Joe Keatinge on Euro comics, collaboration and ending ‘Glory’

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Have you ever worked with someone who loves what they do so much that it’s infectious? That’s a solid description of Joe Keatinge, who writes Marvel’s Morbius: The Living Vampire, along with Glory and Hell Yeah at Image. He’s also someone with a restless love for comics in all of its forms.

Keatinge has been involved in the business for going on nine years, breaking in as a colorist before segueing to a staff position at Image. which took him from managing the publisher’s inventory to marketing its books. After overseeing the successful PopGun anthology, he  shifted into writing comics himself with the double-barreled successes of Hell Yeah and Glory. It’s his work on the latter series that brought him to the attention of Marvel and DC, who enlisted him for Morbius and issues of DC Universe Presents. Through it all, Keatinge has been an outspoken advocate for the medium.

In our interview, Keatinge talks about his place in the industry as well as his far-ranging interests, delving into his creator-owned work (including collaborations with Frank Cho and James Harvey) and breaking down the perceived walls between different areas of comics.

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Comics A.M. | Rob Liefeld is a ‘Doer'; critic Les Coleman passes away

Prophet #21

Creators | For Slate’s “Doers” feature — “People who accomplish great things, and how they do it” — David Wiegel spotlights Rob Liefeld’s decision to revive his Extreme Studios line by handing over the properties to creators like Brandon Graham, Joe Keatinge and Tim Seeley. Acknowledging his critics prefer these new versions of Glory, Prophet and Bloodstrike to his originals, Liefeld tells the website, ““The internet snark has zero effect on me. I was there 20 years ago, I’m out there on the convention circuit, I experience the real and tangible enthusiasm for me and my work. You can’t rewrite the history books, you can’t eliminate the impact of my work and my characters. [...] Rob Liefeld is to today as Michael Jackson and Michael Jordan are to my kids.” [Slate.com]

Passings | Paul Gravett pays tribute to the late British writer and critic Les Coleman. [Paul Gravett]

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Food or Comics? | Happy New Potatoes!

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

The Chimpanzee Complex

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d start the new year off right with Invincible #99 (Image, $2.99). The build-up (or teardown?) to Issue 100 has been great, and honestly I never quite trusted Dinosaurus to begin with so I’m glad to see this finally boil over. I’m all ears – and eyes – for this and the next issue. Next up I’d get another Image joint, Prophet #32 (Image, $3.99). Kudos to Brandon Graham for being confident in himself enough – and choosy enough in his collaborators – that he’s stepping back and letting artist Simon Roy write and draw a one-off issue. And the story of a Prophet clone gone native sounds mighty enticing. Third in this week’s haul would be Punk Rock Jesus #6 (DC/Vertigo, $2.99). I feel a slight bit of remorse at how fast this series has gone – it seemed like a whole lot of introduction, a brief second act and now we’re being pushed into the finale. Still, one of the best series of 2012 (with this finale sneaking out two days after 2012). Finally, I’d get James Stokoe’s Godzilla: Half-Century War #4 (IDW, $3.99). I’ve become big fans of Ota and Kentaro here, and Stokoe has really populated this world with all kinds of special and grotesque. Excited to see what comes up here!

If I had $30, I’d continue my mad dash through my local comic shop with two Marvel picks: All New X-Men #5 (Marvel, $3.99) and New Avengers #1 (Marvel, $3.99). All-New X-Men has been surprisingly refreshing for me; I always love Stuart Immonen’s, but what’s startled me is how fresh and unencumbered Brian Bendis seems here with the writing. On the New Avengers #1 tip, I liked Hickman’s other Avengers work so far but I’m even more interested in how artist Steve Epting draws this unique cast. Plus, I loved Epting’s first run on Avengers – leather jackets, people! Next up I’d return to Image and get Glory #31 (Image, $3.99). This is going to be a great collection when the whole thing is done, but right now we’re knee-deep in the series itself as Glory faces off with her sister Silverfall. Hey Rob Liefeld – this Silverfall character could be something special for more after this series ends! And finally, I’d get Manhattan Projects #8 (Image, $3.50) and anxiously await the big reveal of the secret powerbrokers in the MP universe. I can’t wait for Hickman to blow my mind.

If I could splurge, I’d buy the back-to-back first and second volume of Chimpanzee Complex (#13.95 each, Cinebook). Coming to America with no press at all, I found this in Previews a while back and have been excited by its potential: a Franco-Belgian comic that reveals the astronauts who returned from the moon in 1969 were doppelgangers, and the fallout from that discovery. 2010 meets Orbiter. Bring it on.

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Comics A.M. | Hank Kanalz on DC’s digital expansion; T. Samuval dies

DC Comics digital

Digital comics | Hank Kanalz, DC Entertainment senior vice president of digital, talks about DC’s decision to offer its single-issue comics on a variety of platforms, including Kindle, Nook, and iTunes, rather than exclusively through comiXology and its branded apps (which run on the comiXology platform): “It’s not a move [away from comiXology], it’s an expansion. My charter is to go as wide as possible, and to expand to as many readers as possible. That’s what this is.” [CNET]

Passings | Indian cartoonist T. Samuval died last week in Delhi at age 86. Tom Spurgeon writes, “He was best known for his pocket cartoons, contributed under the nom de plume ‘Samuel.’ Pocket cartoons were a development of British newspapers in the 1930s: single-column cartoons on a current news story designed in many cases to lighten the severity of bad or unpleasant news. Many, like Samuval’s, became recurring features with a specific character at their forefront.” [DNA, The Comics Reporter]

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Food or Comics? | Havarti or The Hive

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

The Hive

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d make up for lost time and get the first collection of Mind the Gap (Image, $9.99). Rodin Esquejo is an absolute gem in my opinion, and Jim McCann looks to have crafted a story with some definite suspenseful power. After that I’d get James Stokoe’s Godzilla: Half Century War #3 (IDW, $3.99). This has become one of my favorite serials to come out, which for a work-for-hire book is tough. Instead of doing a story in service of the concept, it uses the concept to create a great story – and Stokoe really loves Godzilla and puts a face to those humans who oppose him. Finally, I’d get the free Cyber Force #1 (Image/Top Cow, $0) because, well, it’s free. I have an unabashed love for the original Cyber Force, and previous reboots haven’t really gelled the way I wanted to. I’m excited to see what Matt Hawkins brings to this, and I’m glad Silvestri is involved even if only on covers and designs.

If I had $30, I’d first stop for Glory #29 (Image, $3.99). I tend to read this series in built-up bursts, and I’m overdue to catch up. I like the monstrous rage Ross Campbell brings to this, and seeing Joe Keatinge capitalize on the artist he has to create a broader story is thrilling. After that I’d get a Marvel three-pack in Hawkeye #3 (Marvel, $2.99), Daredevil #19 (Marvel, $2.99) and AvX Consequences #2 (Marvel, $3.99). I’d buy David Aja illustrating a phone book – seeing him getting a great story is icing on the cake.

If I could splurge, I’d lash onto Charles Burns’ The Hive (Pantheon, $21.95). I’m reluctantly late to the game when it comes to Charles Burns, but X’ed Out clued me into his awesome cartooning power. After devouring his previous work, I’m excited to read The Hive as it first comes out. I don’t quite know what to expect, but after finally coming around to Burn’s skill I’m up for pretty much anything. Continue Reading »

Food or Comics? | Duck or Doctor Who

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Doctor Who #1

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d catch up on Joe Keatinge and Andre Szymanowicz’ Hell Yeah with the first trade, Vol. 1: Last Days On Earth (Image, $9.99). I admit to dropping off after the second issue, but it’s always something I wanted to get back to; and reading Keatinge’s interviews on the more recent issues has pushed me over the top. If nothing else, $9.99 for five issues is a good deal. After that I’d get Avengers Vs. X-Men #12 (Marvel, $4.99). Of all the group-written issues, Jason Aaron’s seems to have been the most organized and engaging, so I’m glad they opted to have him do the finale. Seeing Adam Kubert on this is surprising, as his previous issues of Avengers Vs. X-Men felt rushed – but previews of this issue show him more measured and confident, like his Astonishing Spider-Man and Wolverine work, also with Aaron.

If I had $30, I’d double back and gleefully grab Thomas Herpich’s White Clay (AdHouse, $4.95). When I first heard about this the onus of Adventure Time was heavy given the cartoonist works on that show, but after seeing the previews and hearing Chris Pitzer talk about this book I’m in for it. I’d also get the debut issue of Andy Diggle’s Doctor Who #1 (IDW, $3.99) with artist Mark Buckingham. Bucky’s a real treat here, and I’m interested to see what he does with Diggle’s words – and what exactly Diggle does. I’m okay if it’s not Lenny Zero – but that would be nice too. Finally, I’d get Uncanny X-Force #32 (Marvel, $3.99). At one time this was my favorite book coming from the Big Two, but it seems to have grown long in the tooth; I’m not confident enough to say Rick and crew are doing something wrong, as maybe it’s just me. But the first 18 issues had a special kind of magic, and that doesn’t seem to remain here in these issues. But still, I’m in ’til the end.

If I could splurge, I’d get The Nao of Brown (SelfMadeHero, $24.95) by Glyn Dillon. I admit I already received an advance review copy of this book, but if I didn’t I’d surely have it on pre-order. A read a review where they compared to this to Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese, but I think that’s a mere surface examination. After reading this (and flipping through it a dozen times since), this is just a pure coming-of-age story that reminds me more of Hope Larson or a very chatty Adrian Tomine. Very great, very great.

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Robot Roulette | Joe Keatinge

Welcome to the very first edition of Robot Roulette, a new interview feature where creators spin the virtual roulette wheel to find out what questions they’ll be answering. With a little help from my friends, I’ve come up with 36 possible questions that any creator could answer, on topics ranging from their careers to their personal lives to their tastes in music. Each week I will randomly select which of those questions they get to tackle.

The first pro to step up to the wheel is Joe Keatinge. Formerly Image Comics’ publicity guy and co-editor of the award-winning Popgun anthology, Joe’s now the writer of Glory and Hell Yeah from Image, and the upcoming Morbius ongoing series for Marvel. He talks about all of these things (and more) regularly on his Tumblr, and Comic Book Resources recently posted a lengthy interview with him on Glory, Hell Yeah and lots more. But nowhere did they address his pet peeves or what instrument he wished he could play. But don’t worry; I’ve got your back.

Joe was one of several pros I sent an email about this wacky feature idea before it existed, and I appreciate his willingness to be one of my first victims guinea pigs. Now on with the show …

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, it’s Stan Lee’s Comikaze

Stan Lee's Comickaze

Conventions | Coming up this weekend: Stan Lee’s Comikaze in Los Angeles, featuring special guests Todd McFarlane, Neal Adams and Marv Wolfman. Attendance is expected to reach 60,000, which is a pretty big number for such a convention that’s only in its second year. [Hero Complex]

Conventions | James Sime, owner of Isotope Comics and one of the organizers of MorrisonCon, talks about, well, Isotope Comics and MorrisonCon, and what it was like translating the world of writer Grant Morrison into a comics event: “The *promise* of MorrisonCon is this crazy, life-altering weekend where you’re plugged directly into this swirling world of brilliant ideas, offbeat interests, mad obsessions, and personalities who fire Grant’s creativity. We had to make that promise real, to translate as many improbable concepts and even random off the cuff Morrison riffs as possible into the tangible world. To render all that into nightclubs and hotel rooms and meeting space chairs and places for awesome humans to meet and mingle. We all agreed, it just wasn’t worth doing unless we could live up to that promise, to truly make something worthy of the name MorrisonCon… and go far beyond it.” [Three If By Space]

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Image’s Prophet and Glory, now in convenient trade paperback form

This week Image Comics released the first trade paperback for Glory, on the  heels of the collection of Prophet, two parts of one of the publisher’s more interesting ventures this year: the revival of older, Rob Liefeld-created characters and properties by some of comics’ most creative and individual voices, artists whose style couldn’t be further from Liefeld’s (although, like Liefeld’s, are perhaps just as instantly recognizable) .

The Liefeld-by-others aspect was pushed by the publisher as something of a Marvel-esque gimmick with these books (and their companion titles Supreme and Youngblood), numbering the first issues not with #1’s, but by picking up the numbering wherever it left off, so that the first issue of the new Prophet, for example, was Prophet #21, and the new Glory began with Glory #23.

In a sign of just how successful the books have been (creatively, if not financially; I ‘m only speaking to the former and ignoring the latter in this column), it’s worth noting that these trades are titled Prophet Vol. 1: Remission and Glory Vol. 1: The Once and Future Destroyer. That is, now Image is selling them as their own stories with their own beginnings, and have moved past the gimmick.

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Food or Comics | Ziti or Zeroes

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Aya: Life in Yop City

Chris Mautner

If I had $15, I’d buy Boys #70 (only two issues until the big finale) and Classic Popeye #2, IDW Publishing’s ongoing series of reprints devoted to Bud Sagendorf comics from the 1940s, as the first issue was much more fun than I expected it to be.

If I had $30, I’d put those comics back, but would be stuck between a couple of books. The first would be Aya: Life in Yop City, which collects the three previous Aya books by Marguerite Abouet and Clement Oubrerie in one volume. These are great, funny comics, full of life and observation regarding a culture — in this case African culture — most Westerners know nothing about.

There’s also A Chinese Life, a massive doorstop of a memoir by Chinese artist Li Kunwu (with help from writer Philippe Otie) chronicling his life and times. Kunwu lives through some of modern China’s most tumultuous periods, including the Cultural Revolution, and hopefully his book will, like Aya, humanize a time and culture that for many is just a few lines in their history book.

Finally, there’s Message to Adolph, Vol. 1, one of Tezuka’s final works, set during World War II, about three people named Adolph, one a Jew, the other a German boy living in Japan, and the third the fuhrer himself. Originally published by Viz about two decades ago, Vertical has taken it upon themselves to put out a newly translated version which is great news for those that missed this great manga the first time around.

Is there a greater splurge purchase this week that Dal Tokyo, the collected version of Gary Panter’s off-kilter comic strip? I plugged this book last week, but it deserves another one. I’ve been waiting for this book for awhile.

For the scholarly comics type, the splurge of the week might be Crockett Johnson and Ruth Krauss, a look at the creator of Barnaby and Harold and the Purple Crayon and his wife, a children’s author with whom he frequently collaborated.

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Morbius: The Living Vampire inducts Keatinge and Elson into the ‘Vampire Comic Club’

Morbius the Living Vampire

Spinning out of his recent appearances in Amazing Spider-Man, Morbius the Living Vampire will once again sink his teeth into an ongoing series. Starting in January, the character who first antagonized Spider-man in Amazing Spider-Man #101 by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane will appear in a new comic by Hell Yeah writer Joe Keatinge and Journey into Mystery artist Richard Elson.

The new series starts in January and was announced at the Amazing Spider-Man panel today during Fan Expo Canada.

“What Dan Slott and company has been doing with Morbius lately has injected a new life into the character and I was already adoring it,” Keatinge told Newsarama. “Dan really, really gets what motivates a character in the Marvel Universe, especially in the Spider-Man corner. In said corner, they’re largely all tragic characters trying to do better. In the case of Peter Parker, the result is usually for the greater good. In Morbius’ case, everything just keeps going to Hell. As a writer, there’s a lot to work with.”

Although he started as a villain, Morbius was always more of a flawed character who got a raw deal vs. being an actual bad guy. A biochemest with a rare blood disease, Morbius ended up giving himself vampire-like powers and bloodthirstiness when he tried to cure himself. When he wasn’t fighting Spider-Man, you could find him teaming up with the Legion of Monsters or even starring in his own series as a part of the 1990s “Rise of the Midnight Sons” crossover event.

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Comics A.M. | This weekend, it’s Wizard World Chicago

Wizard World Chicago

Conventions | Wizard World Chicago Comic Con kicks off today with a guest list that includes Stan Lee, George Perez, Neal Adams, Greg Capullo, Humberto Ramos, Carlos Pacheco, Barry Kitson, David Mack and Chris Burnham. The convention continues through Sunday in Rosemont, Illinois. [Wizard World]

Creators | Cyriaque Lamar has a brief interview with Matt Kindt about Mind MGMT #0, which is being solicited now for a November release. (Issues 1-3 are already available.) Here’s Kindt on the look of the comic: “For this project, I wanted it to be less like you’re picking up a comic and more like you’re holding a story, right down to everything outside of the panels. I want it to feel interactive, something you don’t just drift into. I tend to read graphic novels over issues — I can’t remember thirty days ago from a bit of story. I wanted each issue something you’d go back to every month. My goal was give the book as much depth as possible to reward monthly readers.” [io9.com]

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Women of Action | Glory

Glory #23

Before Rob Liefeld hired Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell to relaunch Glory, my knowledge about the character was limited to her being some sort of Wonder Woman analog. Because I never had a desire to see Liefeld’s version of Wonder Woman, I’d always ignored the character and her series. However, it was impossible to ignore Campbell’s designs for her, even if I hadn’t been writing a blog series on comics named after and starring female superheroes.

I’m embarrassed to say I was unfamiliar with Keatinge’s work before Glory, but I liked Campbell’s Shadoweyes a lot and especially loved how buff his Glory was in the promo art. She’s feminine, but she’s body-builder feminine, with shoulders and upper arms that would make the Hulk think twice about tussling with her. Under Campbell’s pen, her ridiculously long hair (a product of her ‘90s origins) makes her look alien and purposely strange instead of just goofy and dated. It’s even cooler in the comic when she braids those Medusa-like tresses into pigtails that look like they could be used as weapons themselves. Glory is attractive, but weirdly so and her looks are at the bottom of the priority list not only for herself, but also for Keatinge, Campbell and the entire cast of the series.

What’s at the top is characterization, though it’s slow burning; sometimes maddeningly so. Not knowing anything about Glory before the relaunch with Issue 23, I’m not sure how much of her background is Keatinge, how much is Liefeld, and how much is from previous writers Jo Duffy and Alan Moore. But Keatinge takes what sounds like a typical origin for early-Image characters — Glory is the hybrid child of an Amazon and a demon; born to cement an alliance between the warring races — and gives it some serious emotional weight.

Keatinge and Campbell present Glory as a dangerously unpredictable warrior who serves her own agenda instead of the one chosen for her by her parents (who never really saw eye-to-eye on what they wanted her to accomplish anyway). Glory has noble goals and a desire to protect the people of her adopted Earth, but she’s also a victim of her demonic heritage and can be as much a danger to her allies as to the invading monsters that are trying to drag her back towards her destiny. She’s thoroughly alien both in appearance and action.

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Food or Comics | Marzipan or Captain Marvel

Welcome to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy at our local comic shop based on certain spending limits — $15 and $30 — as well as what we’d get if we had extra money or a gift card to spend on a splurge item.

Check out Diamond’s release list or ComicList, and tell us what you’re getting in our comments field.

Dark Horse Presents #14

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d settle in first with Dark Horse Presents #14 (Dark Horse, #7.99). This is no mere anthology: Dark Horses seems to be increasingly using it as an alternate means to serialize new single issue stories, especially with this new issue, as the publisher has expanded it to 100-plus pages. Nexus, Finder, a new Ghost series, AND the new Buddy Cops series by Nate Cosby and Evan Shaner? Sold! Moving on from that, I’d next get Saga #5 (Image, $2.99), which is completely not what I wanted this to be, and turned into something else I want even more. My third and final pick of this big week is Avengers Vs. X-Men #8 (Marvel, $3.99). I believe this is Bendis’ first issue as the lead writer post-Phoenix Force 5 and I’m interested to see him bring his dialogue to this. Seeing Adam Kubert on this brings up some questions for me, as I never really saw Kubert’s style fitting in with the overall aesthetic Marvel’s been pushing these past couple years.

If I had $30, I’d get a second anthology title – World War 3 Illustrated #43 (Top Shelf, $7.00). I’ve been remiss in buying this series for the past few years, but after stumbling over it in Previews a couple months back I made it a point to seek it out next time it came out. After that I’d get Glory #28 (Image, $2.99), Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell’s warrior-woman epic. Each issue manages to outclass the one before it, and I’m thrilled and surprised Ross has been able to do five entire issues with no delays or fill-ins. Finally, I’d get Daredevil #15 (Marvel, $2.99). The media-sensitive side of me is torn about this book now because for a time it was considered Marvel’s best kept secret, but now with the creative team coming out of the Eisners with a wheelbarrow full of awards I have to throw away my elitist mentality and fight off my expectations that the quality will drop now that it’s more well-known. Good thing Chris Samnee is on it, and they’re off to Latveria!

If I could splurge, I’d get Stuff of Legend Omnibus, Vol. 1 (Th3rd World Studios, $29.99). I remember reading a preview of this in a previous Free Comic Book Day sampler issue, but I seemed to have missed or forgotten about it in whatever single issues it’d been released in, so I’m glad I took notice of this. I’m a big fan of artist Charles Paul Wilson III, and this story of kids’ toys fighting in World War II sounds so crazily fun I’m excited to read it all in one sitting.

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Comics A.M. | Comic sales up 18.6% for first half of year

Avengers vs. X-Men #6

Retailing | Sales of comics and graphic novels in the direct market rose 18.6 percent for the first half of the year, compared to the same period in 2011, reports the retail news and analysis site ICv2. John Jackson Miller adds that, “Retailers have already ordered more material through June — nearly $223 million in retail dollars— than they did in last year through July.” He also points out that the second half of the year has outperformed the first half every year for the past decade, by an average of 10 percent, meaning we can probably expect 2012 to finish strong. [ICv2.com, Comichron]

Publishing | The new Valiant Entertainment would like to follow the movie “blueprint” that Marvel has laid out, according to a new profile of the reborn company. “Investors like to be able to compare concepts to other concepts,” said Valiant chairman Peter Cuneo, former CEO of Marvel. “With Valiant, we very much have a blueprint to follow, which is Marvel.” The profile mostly focuses on the business side of Valiant, as well as some of its history. [The New York Times]

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