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Previews: What Looks Good for October

Spera, Volume 1

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. As usual, we’re focusing on graphic novels, collected volumes, and first issues so that I don’t have to come up with a new way to say, “Jeff Lemire’s Frankenstein is still awesome!” every month. And I’ll continue letting Tom and Carla do the heavy lifting in regards to DC and Marvel’s solicitations.

Also, please feel free to play along in the comments. Tell me what I missed that you’re looking forward to or – if you’re a comics creator – mention your own stuff.

Archaia

The Grave Doug Freshley – A lot of publishers are doing Weird Western comics lately and that’s just fine with me.

Spera, Volume 1 – I like the sound of this fairy tale in which a couple of princesses combine efforts to save their kingdoms. It’s not that I’m anti-prince, but that’s a cool, new way to do that story.

Avatar

Captain Swing and the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island – Warren Ellis doing Steampunk sounds thrilling, but really all they had to say was “pirates.” I bet this is still really good though, even if you’re pickier than I am.

Boom!

Roger Langridge’s Snarked #1 – After a well-loved zero-issue, Langridge’s version of Wonderland gets its real, official start.

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The Middle Ground #61 | Where I won’t be for the next week

I’ll admit: I really wasn’t that upset about missing Comic-Con this year until this morning. It’s not that I suddenly realized, while reading tweets about people getting flights or arriving in the city, that the con was actually starting tomorrow – the lack of sleepless nights while so many are already freaking out about travel/accommodation/crushing crowds/everything else was actually rather refreshing, actually – but that I found out that 300 copies of Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant collection will be available early at the show.

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Wonder Woman, Red Sonja, and Xena: Warrior Princess walk into a girls’ locker room…

And thus begins what I can guess without even googling are a thousand racy fanfics. But it’s also the premise, more or less, of cartoonist Dave Kiersh’s thoughtful, funny minicomic Amazons, which he’s now posted online in its entirety on his new site Teenage Archive. The strip imagines what life would be like if these pulchritudinous paragons of fierce femininity were to attend high school, navigating the uncharted waters of jocks, nerds, preps, angry teachers, uncaring administrators, and unyielding dress codes.

Kiersh’s About Me blurb on Teenage Archive reads “Afterschool specials and the American dream,” and that pretty much nails what his comics are like: Whimsical yet melancholy explorations of teenage lust, boredom, romance, and desire to escape — and adult desire to return. Amazons is more of a goof than his usual stuff, but underneath the silliness is something true about the way dudes idealize beautiful women and the sense of unattainable freedom and fulfillment these fantasy figures represent. Read it in tandem with Kate Beaton, Carly Monardo, and Meredith Gran’s “Strong Female Characters” for a very different but I think complementary take on the power such images have.

Women and superheroes: We’re just not that into you?

Darwyn Cooke's superheroes with personalities

The latest round of conversation about women in comics was sparked by Adam P. Knave’s piece bemoaning the lack of women creators in the comics field (which he defines as monthly comics, obviously dominated by superheroes). Adam believes the root cause is that superhero comics have made themselves unattractive to women by portraying women solely as sex objects or targets of abuse. This led Heidi MacDonald to point out that there are plenty of women in the rest of comics, just not at DC and Marvel. And they are doing quite well, too.

Danielle Corsetto, for example. The Girls with Slingshots creator was interviewed by Carl Watkins of Guerilla Geek, and he asked her if she thought it was easier for women to break into webcomics than “traditional” comics. Her answer is revealing:

Yes, although I think it has more to do with the genre than the medium. Most comic books are aimed at boys, are serious, and have a focus on superpowers. Most popular webcomics are character-driven and have to do with the characters’ lifestyles, or observations about science or philosophy, and almost all of them could be clumped into the broad category of “humor.” While I know plenty of women who genuinely love to read about superheroes, I think that, generally, most women prefer to read (and write) about how characters interact with one another, and not how they’re gonna pulverize each other.

So perhaps it’s not just the terrible portrayals of women but also the type of story that’s being told? Saying “women like this, men like that” is a sure way to get yourself called an idiot on the Internet, and certainly there are plenty of women superhero fans, but I can see her point. There’s a coldness to superhero comics that I find off-putting, and they often bore me in the same way battle-action manga do. That sounds like a value judgment, but it isn’t: The people who read Twilight and Vampire Knight are mostly female, so it cuts both ways.

On the other hand, perhaps if more women were writing superhero comics, there would be more superhero comics that women would want to read.

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NCS invites webcomics creators to the party

It’s not exactly pirates vs. ninjas, but there has been, shall we say, some ill feeling between webcomics creators and the National Cartoonists Society over the years. But there comes a time to put away childish things, including feuds, and this year the NCS actually invited three webcomics creators—Kate Beaton, Randall Munroe, and Dave Kellett—to present a panel at their annual meeting, which was held this past weekend in Boston. Naturally, Kellett worked this event, along with some of the high points of the evening, into his daily webcomic, Sheldon.

The big news of the evening was that Richard Thompson won the award for outstanding cartoonist of the year, an honor that anyone who reads Cul de Sac can tell you was well deserved. The award for best newspaper strip went to Jeff Parker and Steve Kelley’s Dustin, Jill Thompson won the Best Comic Book Award for Beast of Burden, and Joyce Farmer took Best Graphic Novel honors for Special Exits.

Kate Beaton’s ‘Lois Lane, Badass Reporter’

This has gotten around the Internet pretty well, but just so there’s no excuse for anyone not to have seen it: Kate Beaton’s series of Lois Lane comic strips does a really good job of showing how cool that character should be. There are only two explanations for Lois’ never figuring out that Superman was Clark: a) she was too dumb to put it together; b) she was too busy to care. I know which option DC continuity endorses, but I also know which one I prefer.

Beaton admits to not having read a lot of Lois Lane comics, but that’s probably for the best. Her interpretation is based instead on Lois and Clark, old Fleischer cartoons, and Dean Trippe’s unpublished Lois Lane, Girl Reporter pitch.

NY Mag features Pizza Island

Domitille Collardey at work

New York Magazine has a slideshow up this week about Pizza Island, the Greenpoint, Brooklyn, studio where six comics creators make the magic happen.

The slideshow includes self-portraits of Julia Wertz (Fart Party, Drinking at the Movies), Kate Beaton (Hark, A Vagrant) Lisa Hanawalt (I Want You), Sarah Glidden (How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less) Domitille Collardey (whose works are mostly in French), and Meredith Gran (Octopus Pie) as well as comments on each one by a co-worker. (It was Lisa and Domitille who commented on that Frank Quitely piece, so it’s interesting to contrast their self-portraits with his version of a woman cartoonist.)

There’s a whole lot of talent working in that small space, and if you’re fortunate enough to be going to MoCCA, be sure to check out their panel, which will feature all six. If you’re not, then head on over to the Pizza Island blog, where, at the moment, everyone is showing off their work spaces and discussing the quirks of their desktops.

Page after glorious page of behind-the-scenes Strange Tales II art

line art for the Strange Tales II #1 cover by Rafael Grampa

line art for the Strange Tales II #1 cover by Rafael Grampa

Over at ComicsAlliance, Laura Hudson has a real treat for those of you who like your superhero comics with an alternative twist: 50-plus pages of sketches, thumbnails, pencils, inks, color studies and more from the Strange Tales II hardcover, which debuted this week. Click on over and get a glimpse at the creative process behind contributions from Kate Beaton, Jeffrey Brown, Ivan Brunetti, Farel Dalrymple, Rafael Grampa, Dean Haspiel, Jaime Hernandez, Paul Hornschemeier, Benjamin Marra, Edu Medeiros, Harvey Pekar, Frank Santoro, and Paul Vella. That’s hella Strange!

Hornschemeier covers Strange Tales 2 with help from Kate Beaton

How much do you love Marvel’s Strange Tales anthology? The mixing of independent talent with these mainstream comic icons is truly something to behold, and it looks like Marvel is continuing that with the recently leaked cover to the second volume’s collected edition.

Cartoonist Paul Hornschemeier recently released the cover he designed for Strange Tales II (as you can see on the right) , which features Hornschemeier’s design sensibilities with the art of Kate Beaton. Hornschemeier calls Beaton “one of the best, most pitch-perfect cartoonists working today,” and said he knew she wanted her work on the cover even before he started going through the book’s contents.

Make with the clicky to Hornschemeier’s blog to see the cover at a larger size as well as the back cover and more thoughts on the whole project.

Kate Beaton presents the Adventures of Sexy Batman

Okay, nerd internet, job well done — you can go ahead and retire now.

(Dare I point out that showing Batman strutting his stuff even in the midst of crimefighting turns him into gag-strip fodder — thus revealing how totally idiotic it is for female superheroes to constantly be shown doing the exact same thing? Or will that bring out the anti-Beaton He-Man Woman Haters Club again?)

D&Q announces a collection of artist Kate Beaton’s work

Tom Spurgeon broke the news that Drawn & Quarterly has acquired the North American rights to publish a new collection of work by cartoonist Kate Beaton titled Hark! A Vagrant.

Using the name of Beaton’s website, the book will collect comics she has published there, as well as some new strips. The Montreal-based publisher plans to have the hardcover collection on store shelves in the Fall of 2011. UK fans will see her book put out through Jonathan Cape.

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Food or Comics? | This week’s comics on a budget

John Byrne's Next Men

Welcome once again to Food or Comics?, where every week we talk about what comics we’d buy based on certain spending limits — $15, $30 to spend and if we had extra money to spend on what we call the “Splurge” item. Check out Diamond’s release list for this week if you’d like to play along in our comments section.

Michael May

If I had $15:

There are a lot of great periodicals coming out this week, so I’d have some hard choices to make. With only $15, I’d concentrate first on those with the cheapest prices: the first issue of Dark Horse’s new Mighty Samson ($3.50), Atomic Robo and the Deadly Art of Science #2 ($3.50), and Mouse Guard: Black Axe #1 ($3.50). I’m already a huge fan of both Atomic Robo and Mouse Guard and – based on its concept and vague memories of stories I read as a kid – hope to become one of Mighty Samson too. I’d spend the last of my money on Northern Guard #1, because I’m a sucker for Canadian superheroes.

If I had $30:

I’d add Doc Macabre #1 ($3.99), John Byrne’s Next Men #1 ($3.99), and Strange Tales 2 #3 ($4.99). “Doc Macabre” is an awesome name and I love Steve Niles’ pulp stuff, I’ve been waiting 16 years for that Next Men issue, and the Strange Tales book has a Kate Beaton story in which the Avengers go to a carnival. I’d pay five bucks just for Beaton’s deal, but it’s also got a Thing tale by Harvey Pekar (and yes, Harvey Pekar is in the story).

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Kate Beaton’s New York Diary

from "New York Sketches" by Kate Beaton

The Big Apple giveth, the Big Apple taketh away: After losing what would have been her latest Hark, a Vagrant! comic strip somewhere on the streets of SoHo, cartoonist Kate Beaton made lemonade out of lemons by instead posting “New York Sketches” — a sizeable selection of diary-comic strips about her life and times in New York City. From attending the New York Comic Con (see above) to dealing with drunk and disorderly fellow New Yorkers to assuaging the fears of her mom back in Nova Scotia, it’s a fun little portrait of the artist as she navigates the concrete jungle where dreams are made of [sic].

Comics A.M. | Diamond plans digital service? Eisner judges named

Diamond Comic Distributors

Retailing | Rich Johnston confirms that Diamond Comic Distributors is developing a digital comics service that, in the words of a company representative, “will be entirely focused on driving sales of digital comic-related content through brick and mortar comic book specialty retailers.” No details were made available, but an official announcement is expected “in the near future.” In the meantime, Johnston gathers initial reactions from several retailers. [Bleeding Cool]

Publishing | Amit Desai, who has worked at Warner Bros. since 2004, has been named as DC Entertainment’s senior vice president, franchise management: “In his new role, Desai will develop and implement the individual franchise plans for Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash, MAD Magazine, Vertigo titles, and other DC properties. This will include driving wider cross-promotional support across all Time Warner divisions.” [press release]

Publishing | Alex Segura, former publicity manager at DC Comics, has been hired by Archie Comics as executive director of publicity and marketing. [press release]

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