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Documentary chronicles the Boston indie comics scene

Ming Doyle

San Francisco, Seattle, Portland and Chicago may be better known as comics towns, but Boston has a thriving indie comics community, and now the city has a documentary about it as well. In this 11-minute film, The Amazing and Fantastical Boston Comics Creators, director Frank Duran talks to an array of local talent, including Jesse Lonergan, Jerel Dye, John Hilliard and Ming Doyle. It’s well worth a look both to see the amazing art some of these creators are producing and to hear them talk about their process as well as the importance of the Boston Comics Roundtable in bringing them together and nurturing their work.

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Comics A.M. | Retailers ‘cautiously ecstatic’ about comic sales

Batman, ICv2's top superhero graphic novel property

Retailing | Retailers are “cautiously ecstatic,” ICv2 reports, ecstatic because comics sales have increased in the direct market every month for the past 12 months, and cautious because this “return to floppies” comes after years of a seesawing market and they know things can change at any time. The article contains links to the news and analysis site’s lists of the top graphic novel properties in a number of categories, including superheroes, manga, and kids’ comics. [ICv2]

Creators | The Sri Lankan political cartoonist Prageeth Eknelygoda has been missing for 1,000 days as of Tuesdayy, and his wife is convinced the government has something to do with that. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Creators | This article about T. Casey Brennan, who wrote for Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, takes a number of weird turns, not least when Brennan claims to have shot JFK — and when he shows up in the comments section to dispute everything in the article. Brennan’s life seems to have taken a turn after he was injured in an automobile accident, and he now is homeless and but apparently happy. [The Washtenaw Voice]

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Previews: What Looks Good for December

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. We’ve each picked the five comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a list of the best new stuff coming out two months from now.

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

Avengers #1

Chris Arrant

Avengers #1 (Marvel): Has Marvel NOW! already gotten enough attention? Maybe so, but that’s partly the reason I’m highlighting this specific book. In the rising tide that’s pushed all of the Marvel NOW relaun!ches, for me — as a fan and journalist — the marketing has dulled the unique appeal of every book. Flipping through Previews and giving this a deeper critical eye, it made me realize – this is Jonathan Hickman and Jerome Opeña doing Avengers, the de facto flagship book of Marvel since 2004. Opeña really turned a corner with Uncanny X-Force, and I’m interested to see how Hickman brings his meticulous plotting to a biweekly book with a cast larger than Circus of the Stars. And what’s interesting is that he’s done a version of this when he relaunched the “Ultimate” version of the Avengers in Ultimate Comics: Ultimates. I’m not saying this will be that re-heated over, but it’ll be interesting to see how he takes roughly the same characters and bobs instead of weaves.

Hiroaki Samura’s Emerald and Other Stories (Dark Horse): Samura’s Blade of the Immortal was a major manga when it debuted, but when you have one artist doing a long, drawn-out story it tends to dull in the eyes of fans on the outside looking in. But his short-story collection Ohikkoshi was fun, modern and completely different – a great bite-size snack from the eight-course meal/buffet that is Blade of the Immortal. This collection looks to be like that, centered around Samura’s western teen drama Emerald. I’ve heard of another set of stories called Bradherley’s Coach about a family whose business is to ferry orphans to their new home, which I hope is in here as well.

Mara #1 (Image): I’ve been loving Brian Wood’s work since he jumped to AiT-PlanetLar too many years ago, and seeing him branch out with another new series makes me wish for Brian Wood Month all over again. Besides swami Brian, it’s the artist he’s doing this with that really deserves some attention; Ming Doyle has killed it in her work featured on Project: Rooftop (shameless plug), and when she moved to doing shorts for Marvel in things like Fantastic Four she showed she could really play with the big boys. Seeing Wood and Doyle doing a sports-themed action series set in the future, this is a unique-looking story that’ll be at the top of my stack when it comes out on Dec. 26.

Hip Flask: Ourborous (Image): In comics today there’s a rare group of artists that are like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Ents; an older race who were once masters of the world but now subsist on making rare, but eventful appearances. Alan Moore is this way; so is Art Adams. To that list I’d like to add Ladrönn. This has my money, even if I didn’t know how great a story this is.

Orcs, Vol. 1: Forged For War (First Second): Speaking of Tolkien, am I the only one that felt compassion for the Orcs in Lord of the Rings? Well, this reprinted graphic novel by writer Stan Nicholls and artist Joe Flood brings the orc race to the forefront. Orc Stain was great, and this could be too!

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This weekend, it’s MICE

MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, is like a mini-MoCCA for the Boston area. Sponsored by the Boston Comics Roundtable and the Art Institute of Boston, MICE is in its third year, and last year’s show was such a hit that tables for this year sold out within three hours. The headline guest is R. Sikoryak, and the roster includes Box Brown, Ming Doyle, Cathy Leamy, Kevin Church, Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue (who will be debuting their latest Pet Shop Private Eye book at the show), Adventure Time team Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline, and many more too numerous to mention (more than 150 in all). Besides Venable and Yue’s book, there are several other debuts at the show, including the Boston Comics Roundtable’s Hellbound III, Cathy Leamy’s Diabetes Is After Your Dick and Mike Lynch’s Don’t Let the Zombie Drive the Bus.

As much as I love the big shows, and I’ll move heaven and earth to get to New York Comic Con every year, I really enjoy smaller shows like this. Boston has a lot of native and nearby comics talent, and while the room does get crowded at times, it’s still more laid back than a big con. You get to see talent at all stages of its development and interact with creators while they are still making their comics by hand. Plus it’s in a great location, easy to get to and with a ton of good restaurants nearb y— no shriveled-up turkey sandwiches for $9 a pop or fake coffee in a Styrofoam cup. Admission is free, too. So if you’re in the area, hop on the T and check it out.

Comics A.M. | Fun Home musical to open in New York City

From "Fun Home"

Graphic novels | A musical based on Alison Bechdel’s acclaimed 2006 graphic memoir Fun Home will open the fall season of the Public Lab series of the Public Theater in New York City. Featuring music by four-time Tony Award nominee Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Tony nominee Lisa Kron, the show is scheduled to run from Oct. 17 through Nov. 4 at the Shiva Theater. [The New York Times, The Public Theater]

Creators | Gilbert Hernandez guests on the comiXologist podcast to talk about Love and Rockets and what he has been reading lately. [comiXology]

Creators | Brian Wood and Ming Doyle talk about their new comic Mara, which will debut from Image Comics in December and features a volleyball player with superpowers in a world where sports and warfare are no longer so far apart. While Wood is not really a sports fan, he is fascinated by the portrayal of athletes in popular culture: “‘This is tied into the superhero thing, recognizing parallels between the two,’ Wood says. ‘I think there’s a lot to talk about there and part of me feels I’ll need more than one comic series to do it in. We’ll see.’” [USA Today]

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Image Expo | Grant Morrison, new Phonogram and much more [Updated]

Phonogram: The Immaterial Girl

The first Image Expo kicked off Friday in Oakland, California, with a keynote speech from Publisher Eric Stephenson that emphasized creator relationships as the company’s foundation, and laid out more than a half-dozen titles that will be announced this weekend for release later this year:

Happy!, by Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, a mysterious title the writer says is “in a genre I’ve never really tackled before — but with a bizarre twist, of course.” It’s the first of several potential Image projects from Morrison. [iFanboy]

• Confirmation of a third volume of Phonogram, by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matthew Wilson, called The Immaterial Girl. Gillen says the six-issue miniseries, which will likely debut in November, is “primarily about the war between coven queen witch Emily Aster and the half of her personality she sold to whatever lies on the other side of the screen. It’s about identity, eighties music videos and further explorations of Phonogram’s core ‘Music = Magic’ thesis. There is horror. There are jokes. There are emotions. There may even be a fight sequence. It also takes A-ha’s ‘Take On Me’ with far too much seriousness – which, for us, is the correct amount of seriousness.” [Kieron Gillen's Workblog]

Chin Music, by Steve Niles and Tony Harris, described by the artist as “a 1930′s Noir, Gangster, horror story.” [Tony Harris]

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Captain Kirk is a jerk: New Star Trek parody comic boldly goes there

Although it originated on the television air waves, Star Trek has boldy gone to a number of mediums, including comics. But this new voyage is taking it in a more harrowing — and humorous — direction.

Writer Kevin Church and artist Ming Doyle recently kicked off a Star Trek parody webcomic titled Boldly Gone, centers on a lesser-known Starfleet vessel, the U.S.S Mandela, during the time of the original Star Trek series. Following up from their previous series The Loneliest Astronauts, Church and Doyle’s new work sees Captain Paul Meredith writhing and griping in the shadow of the illustrious James T. Kirk. Remember how Shatner vamped so much during the TV show? Imagine how other captains would feel about that. Here’s a sample:

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Brown, Kupperman, more contribute to CBLDF minicomic

The Comic Book Fan’s Worst NIGHTMARE!

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.

You can read the whole comic on the CBLDF site or download it via comiXology.

Chain Reactions | Fantastic Four #600

Fantastic Four #600

(Please note: Clicking on just about any of the links in this post will take you directly to spoilers for Fantastic Four #600.)

This week saw Marvel revert back to the original numbering for their flagship title, Fantastic Four, as they released the 600th issue of the “World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.” The $7.99, 96-page comic contains five stories, all written by Jonathan Hickman and drawn by a variety of artists, including Steve Epting, Rick Magyar, Carmine Di Giandomenico, Ming Doyle, Leinil Francis Yu, Gerry Alanguilan and Farel Dalrymple.

And just like they’ve done in the past, Marvel spoiled one of the plot points from the book in order to get mainstream media attention. One of the plot points, anyway; when Hickman was asked on Twitter about a particular article that contained a major spoiler, he replied, “… I haven’t read that article, so I’m not sure ‘which’ spoiler is being spoiled.” Yep, this comic book is just packed.

Here’s a sampling of what folks have been saying about Fantastic Four #600:

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Food or Comics? | A pre-Thanksgiving four-color feast

Wolverine and the X-Men

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.

Chris Arrant

If I had $15, I’d get one from almost every box–Image’s Invincible #85 ($2.99), DC’s DMZ #71 ($2.99), Marvel’s Wolverine and The X-Men #2 ($3.99) and independent title RASL #12 ($3.50). Not much to say about any of these I haven’t already said, except anytime Cory Walker draws a book I’d pay twice cover price.

If I had $30, I’d sneak out of Thanksgiving preparations to first get a book I was surprised I liked as much as I did, despite the last issue’s ending: Shade #2 (DC, $2.99). One thing I wasn’t amped to see was Deathstroke, but given James Robinson and Cully Hammer’s track record I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Next up would be the epic (in my mind, at least) team-up of Warren Ellis and Michael Lark on Secret Avengers #19 (Marvel, $3.99). Seeing Ellis boil down the concept into “Run the mission. Don’t get seen. Save the world.” Hits me right between the eyes, and this new issue’s preview has be salivating over it. Last up, I’d pay the giant size price tag for Fantastic Four #600 (Marvel, $7.99) although my patience has worn a little thin with ending the series then bringing it back for #600.

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Space comedy The Loneliest Astronauts signs off

After two years of (almost) weekly adventures, the erstwhile astronauts Dan and Steve are ending their tour of duty in outer space as the long-running webcomic The Loneliest Astronauts finishes this week. Created by writer Kevin Church and artist Ming Doyle, it’s reminiscent of the recent flick Moon if written as a drunken comedy with Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd.

Church is a longtime denizen of the comics Internet going back to the early comics blogosphere days, and for the past few years he’s quietly assembled his own line of webcomics illustrated by different artists under the banner AgreeableComics.com. He wrote a handful of printed comics for BOOM! Studios a few years back, but it’s this quiet armada of quirky webcomics for which becoming known.

In the case of his Loneliest Astronauts collaborator Doyle, she’s gone from an online indie darling (and Project: Rooftop regular) to getting mainstream Marvel attention with work in Girl Comics and the upcoming resumption of Fantastic Four.

With all 87 installments online for free, readers can check out the entire series, and wait for a possible print edition. Fans of the work can look forward next month to seeing Church and Doyle reunite to revive their Star Trek fan comic Boldly Gone.

This weekend, it’s M.I.C.E.

New York may get the big shows, but Boston has a vibrant local comics scene and is building up a nice slate of events throughout the year. Boston Comic Con was like a teeny-tiny version of NYCC, with name creators (Darwyn Cooke, Stan Sakai, Frank Quitely) chatting with dozens of fans in small conference rooms. MICE, the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo, is like a mini-MoCCA, just one day long and featuring a number of talented creators. The lineup of exhibitors includes Box Brown, Kevin Church, Alexander Danner, Ming Doyle, Gareth Hinds, Dirk Tiede, and Tak Toyoshima, plus lots of people you never heard of who are quietly doing interesting, innovative work (that’s not a punt—I saw a lot of these people at BCC.)

The schedule includes lettering, coloring, and webcomics workshops and panel discussions on comics for children (featuring my Good Comics for Kids collaborator Robin Brenner), comics and social justice, comics and fashion, and more.

It all happens Saturday, from 10 a.m to 4 p.m., at Lesley University in Porter Square, Cambridge. Here’s an insider tip: It’s in the same building as a Japanese mall, which has lots of inexpensive noodle shops, one nicer fish restaurant, a bubble tea stand, and a lovely Japanese/French bakery, so plan to stay local for lunch. Admission to the show is free, and there’s plenty to see. I’m planning to make a day of it, and if you are in the Boston area, I’d highly recommend it.

Female comic creators unite for a cause in Womanthology

There’s anthologies. Then there’s Womanthology.

Designed to showcase the works of female comic creators “of every age and experience level,” the short stories in Womanthology center around the theme “Heroic.” In addition to comics, the book will also have interviews and “how-to” tutorials by female creators to encourage the next generation of talent. All proceeds from the book will be donated to the charity Global Giving Foundation.

To bring this all together, the women behind Womanthology are turning to Kickstarter.com to raise money to print the book. With a release date tentatively set for December 2011, the Kickstarter campaign has already generated $18,000 of its $25,000 goal with just under a month to go.

The list of contributors reads like a who’s who of comic creators, including the  likes of Ann Nocenti, Camille d’Errico, Ming Doyle, Colleen Doran, June Brigman, Fiona Staples, Barbara Kesel, Gail Simone, Trina Robbins and more.

HeroesCon Recap: Photo Essay

Rather than try to write a summary of my HeroesCon 2011 experience, I have opted this year to share as many photos as possible. My camera was out-of-commission yesterday so all photos were taken during the second day of the show (Saturday).

Jeff Parker and friends

Jeff Parker and friends

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Creator-Owned Spotlight #1 by Steve Niles

Editor’s Note: With the recent discussions going on around the comics community about creator-owned comics, we’re pleased to welcome one of the voices in those discussions, 30 Days of Night and Mystery Society creator Steve Niles, to Robot 6 for a series of columns on creator-owned comics. A big thanks to Steve for agreeing to do the column, as well as to artist Stephanie Buscema for creating a killer image for it.

by Steve Niles

Creator-Owned Spotlight

Hello everybody!

Welcome to the first installment of my new column, Creator-Owned Spotlight. I tried to think up an amusing title, but then decided to just settle on what it was: a spotlight on creator-owned comics, publishers and retailers who support the need for more creator-owned books.

I guess the first order of business is to define what I mean when I say “creator-owned comics.” I’m talking about ANY book where the creator has ANY ownership in their book. So basically, if you sign a work-for-hire agreement, you don’t generally have ownership. It doesn’t make those books bad, or the enemy, or anything like that. We’re just not talking about them here.

Why am I doing this? I’ve been called insane for wanting to promote my competitors’ work. All I have to say to that is: it isn’t a competition. And yes, I am crazy. I’ve drawn a line in the sand for myself to be positive. I hope you’ll try, too.

First up is such an obvious choice; I really don’t need to write much at all. His name is synonymous with creator-owned books, because he’s one of creator-owned comics’ greatest success stories. He’s also a friend and hero of mine.

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