Writer and publisher Chris Roberson, who’s emerged over the past six months as a vocal advocate for creators’ rights, announced this morning that his Monkeybrain Comics will donate all of its income from November to The Hero Initiative, the industry organization dedicated to helping creators in need.
While creators releasing comics through Monkeybrain’s recently launched digital-comics initiative will still receive their portion of profits, the publisher’s cut will go to the charity.
“There are far too many stories of well-respected, talented writers and artists who created successful and beloved comics in previous decades, and who now are living in reduced means — unable to afford health care, unable to find paying work, some even homeless,” Roberson, who co-founded Monkeybrain in 2001 with his wife Allison Baker, wrote in an open letter. “At the same time, characters created and co-created by many of these same creators have gone on to appear in major motion pictures, on television, and in toy aisles. The American comic book industry was built on selling morality tales to young readers, stories of men and women who fought for justice and stood up for what was right. And the writers, artists, and others who created those stories deserve better than they have received. Thankfully, they have the Hero Initiative in their corner.”
Monkeybrain’s digital lineup includes Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover, Edison Rex by Roberson and Dennis Culver, Thoughts on a Winter Morning by Kurt Busiek and Steve Lieber, and Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer L. Meyer. The comics can be purchased on the publisher’s website, or on comiXology.
Read Roberson’s full letter below:
Ahead of the Oct. 31 release of Amelia Cole and the Unknown World #4 from Monkeybrain Comics, artist Nick Brokenshire has provided ROBOT 6 with a look at his process for creating Page 4 of that issue. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, by Brokenshire, writers Adam P. Knave and D.J. Kirkbride, and letterer Rachel Deering, the first three issues are available on comiXology.
A wee while back, my friends Adam and DJ asked me if I fancied doing a process diary-type thing for Comic Book Resources. I was surprised because I am a new artist in the wondrous world we know collectively as “comics.” Of course, what with our book being picked up by Monkeybrain and put out on comiXology, I said yes. We are obviously in the business of drawing attention to our work so that we can sell copies which in turn will allow us to make more comics. … But that isn’t the real reason that I want to share this little snapshot of the way we do things. The main reason for me is: love of the process. Even as an unknown, I relish the chance to share the little I have learned with anyone that may enjoy or benefit from this information.
A few years back while I was training to be a high-school art teacher (which is what I do as a day job now), I stumbled upon the revelation that the only way to achieve anything is by starting. I had been drawing comics characters and chopped-up bits of comics but never managed to finish anything. Then, upon listening to the experiences of professionals on podcasts like Word Balloon and Art and Story, as well as interviews on blogs and magazines, the same little snippet of advice kept popping out: start. Start to write and start to draw. After you start, don’t stop. Even when you don’t think the work is that good, don’t stop. That’s the only way to get better. So I started and I think I’m getting better. I’m a long way from being as good as my heroes, but I’ve made a start. So, for those of you who want to make comics, whether you dream of super-stardom or like me, just like to tell stories, here’s a brief breakdown of the process I go through to make comics. Hope it helps you start.
If you enjoyed the first two chapters of Bandette, Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover’s charming digital comic from Monkeybrain Comics, and need a fix until the next installment is released, here’s some good news: the Monkeybrain website has posted a two-page preview of Bandette: Urchin Stories, which will feature short tales of her supporting cast.
The complete two-page story, written by Tobin and drawn by the great Steve Lieber, stars “the most harassed police inspector of all time,” B.D. Belgique. Enjoy!
One of the clearcut hits from the first wave of Monkeybrain Comics digital line is Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover‘s Bandette, a great mixture of Tintin and Nancy Drew-type adventure. Today marks the release of Issue 2 – for the great price of 99 cents – where (as you can see by the preview CBR ran yesterday) Bandette foils a bank robbery in her own unique way.
To help get people as riled as I am for today’s release, I recently barraged Coover and Tobin with a series of questions. As a longtime fan of Tobin’s run on Marvel Adventures: Spider-Man, it pleased me immensely that Tobin is building somewhat upon the Blonde Phantom/Chat substories/genre he explored in the former series. I also appreciate a turn of phrase that Tobin used (“zest for life”) in discussing the new digital collaboration with Coover. I think zest for life is a quality that fuels Coover’s art.
In addition to the digital Issue 2 coming out today, on Saturday Coover will be at the Jet City Comic Show in Seattle. My thanks to Coover and Tobin for their time.
Since the first time I hung out with Monkeybrain Books founders Allison Baker and Chris Roberson at the Westin hotel bar during HeroesCon a few years back, I have longed to do a joint interview with them. While their publishing house Monkeybrain Books has been in existence since 2001, in July Baker and Roberson launched a creator-owned comiXology-distributed digital imprint, Monkeybrain Comics. While much is known of Roberson, not everyone knows Baker’s background. As detailed at their company website: “Allison Baker has worked in feature film and political media production for more than 13 years, while also managing the day-to-day operations of Chris Roberson and Monkeybrain Books.” Please allow me to apologize in advance for not quizzing Roberson about my new favorite Monkeybrain work of his, Edison Rex. Update: After I finished posting this article, Monkeybrain announced that tomorrow (August 14) would mark the release of a 99-cent autobiographical story by Kurt Busiek, Thoughts on A Winter Morning, drawn by Steve Lieber (a story which was originally appeared in Negative Burn: Winter 2005).
Tim O’Shea: Which came first, the decision to move to Portland or the decision to move Monkeybrain into the digital realm?
Allison Baker: The move to PDX was definitely decided first. Monkeybrain Comics started out as an idea and theory, trying to solve a lot of the problems creators run into when working within a traditional publishing model. The final piece of the puzzle came to us at the end of last year. After that we started actively putting it all together in the beginning of 2012.
Chris Roberson: Yeah, we’d been planning our move to Portland for well over a year, and talking about it for a year or two before that. The germ of the idea that would eventually become Monkeybrain Comics was planted around the same time, but didn’t take its final form as a digital comics imprint until the end of last year.
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]
Passings | Dave Thorne, sometimes called the father of Hawaiian cartooning, has died at the age of 82. His most recent strip was Thorney’s Zoo, which ran in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Mark Evanier has a personal appreciation of Thorne and his love of Hawaii. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]
Creators | Carl Barks once wrote, “Ninety-nine readers out of 100 think Walt Disney writes and draws all those movies and comic books between stints with his hammer and saw building Disneyland,” but for much of his career he was happy to remain anonymous and avoid the hassles that come with fame. Jim Korkis writes the fascinating story of how two fans got through the Disney wall of anonymity — and Barks’ own reticence — to figure out who Barks was and bring him into contact with his admirers. [USA Today]
This week I catch up with Amelia Cole and the Unknown World co-writers D.J. Kirkbride and Adam P. Knave, who were part of the first round of Monkeybrain Comics creative releases on July 2. With Issue 2 poised to launch Aug. 7, it struck me as a good time to interview Kirkbride and Knave. Here’s the official nutshell description of the series: “Amelia Cole lives in two worlds — literally. One runs on magic, the other built on technology. When the barriers between those worlds start to break down, Amelia and her aunt Dani must take extreme action.” Before you read the interview, I must stress there is some spoiler info connected to Dani in this interview, so please do not read the interview if you have yet to pick up the first issue. My thanks to the co-writers for their time.
Tim O’Shea: Whom approached who, did the Amelia Cole team seek out Monkeybrain or vice versa?
Adam P. Knave: We’ve known [Monkeybrain Comics'] Chris [Roberson] and Allison [Baker] for a while now and so we kept in touch, you know, the way people do. So when we started Amelia Cole (originally we were thinking of doing it as a web comic) we sent them the first issue just to kind of go “Hey, this is what we’re working on.” no higher purpose, just friends sharing creative endeavors with friends.
D.J. Kirkbride: Yeah, Chris and Allison are good peoples, and we were curious as to what they thought of our book. We’re fans of Chris’s writing, too, so we were a little nervous. Well, I was. Adam’s nerves, like his beard, are made of steel.
Knave: And then one day we got an email explaining the whole Monkeybrain thing and asking if we were interested. So Amelia herself sought them out, except none of us knew it at the time.
Kirkbride: Ooh, that sounds magical.
Between Warner Bros.’ screening of the tear-inducing first footage from Man of Steel and Marvel Studios’ confirmation of Guardians of the Galaxy, the third day of Comic-Con International clearly belonged to movies. However, that doesn’t mean there were no comic-book announcements to emerge Saturday from San Diego. Here are some of the highlights:
• Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino crashed DC Comics’ Before Watchmen panel to reveal the publisher will release a five-issue miniseries based on the screenplay of his upcoming Western Django Unchained. The comic will debut in November, ahead of the film’s Dec. 25 opening.
• Image Comics unveiled a slate of new projects, including: The Bounce, by Joe Casey and David Messina; Satellite Sam, by Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin; Lazarus, by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark; The Saviors, James Robinson and J. Bone; Oliver, by Gary Whitta and Darick Robertson; Pretty Deadly, by Kelly Sue Deconnick and Emma Rios; Sex, by Casey and Piotr Kowalski; Non-Humans, by Glen Brunswick and Whilce Portacio; Reign, by Chris Roberson and artist Paul Mayberry; Nowhere Men, by Eric Stephenson, Nate Bellegarde and Jordie Bellaire; Multiple Warheads, by Brandon Graham; Point of Impact, by Jay Faerber; and Great Pacific, by Joe Harris and Martin Morazzo.
Creators | Following the appearance of the Infinity Gauntlet in Thor and the cameo by Thanos in The Avengers, Marvel appears poised to expand the cosmic elements of its cinematic universe with The Guardians of the Galaxy. While some fans eagerly await a movie announcement next week at Comic-Con International, Thanos creator Jim Starlin (who had to buy his own tickets to Thor and The Avengers) may be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge: Heidi MacDonald points out that Starlin has posted an early drawing of the Mad Titan on his Facebook page, writing, “This is probably one of the first concept drawings of Thanos I ever did, long before I started working at Marvel. Jack Kirby’s Metron is clearly the more dominant influence in this character’s look. Not Darkseid. Both D and T started off much smaller than they eventually became. This was one of the drawings I had in my portfolio when I was hired by Marvel. It was later inked by Rich Buckler.” [The Beat]
Comics | Tim Marchman, author of that much-discussed Wall Street Journal article, is at it again, this time interviewing Watchmen editor Len Wein about his work on Before Watchmen, and including the interventions of DC Comics Publicity Manager Pamela Mullin as part of the story. Between the embargo on the comic and Mullin doing her job, it sounds like the most interesting parts of the interview never made it into the final product. [The Daily Beast]
This was, at one point earlier in the week, going to be the place where I looked forward to the first wave of Monkeybrain Comics, which were originally going to be released tomorrow. Then, of course, Monkeybrain got announced, went viral in the way that lots of publishers claim to but don’t actually manage, and ended up putting out their books two days early due to reader demand. I’m telling you, I don’t like the way that their good fortune screws with my carefully planned* timetable.
If you only checked Twitter today for your news, you know that, among other fun facts, Anderson Cooper is gay, Big Sean gave Justin Bieber a pinkie ring and Chris Roberson announced the new digital comics initiative Monkeybrain Comics is coming July 4.
Make that was coming, actually–due to the attention they received today, Monkeybrain and comiXology decided to launch the line early.
“With “#Monkeybrain” trending worldwide on Twitter most of the day, Monkeybrain Comics and comiXology have taken the unprecedented step of releasing the entire launch line of Monkeybrain Comics two days early. Available now at this link, fans worldwide can stop tweeting about “#Monkeybrain” and start experiencing this great new line of comics. (But seriously, don’t stop tweeting about it either! – Chris and Allison.),” read the press release from comiXology.
Available now from comiXology are:
- Aesop’s Ark by J. Torres and Jennifer L. Meyer
- Amelia Cole and the Unknown World by Adam P. Knave, DJ Kirkbride and Nick Brokenshire
- Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover
- Edison Rex by Chris Roberson and Dennis Culver
- October Girl by Matthew Dow Smith
I’m downloading Bandette as I type this, soon to be followed by the rest. The comics are 13-16 pages each for 99 cents except for Amelia Cole and the Unknown World, which is $1.99 for 31 pages. I mean, seriously; 99 cents for a Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover comic? I’m all over that. You can check out artwork from each of them over on CBR.