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Comics A.M. | ‘Philémon’ creator Fred dies at age 82

Philémon

Philémon

Passings | French cartoonist Theodor Friedrich Otto Aristidès, aka Fred, passed away Tuesday in a Paris hospital at age 82. He was best known for Philémon, his surrealistic comic about a French farm boy who fell down a well into a fantasy world akin to Wonderland. Fred was awarded the Grand Prix de la ville d’Angoulême in 1980, and had been the oldest living recipient. [L'Observateu de Beauvais]

Creators | John Layman, who’s writing  the 900th issue of Detective Comics (No. 19 in the New 52 continuity) talks about his plans for that and his creator-owned series Chew, and contrasts the two: “Well, the cases are weirder in Chew. There is an element that’s the same – you introduce a conflict, and then you have a detective with a certain skill set resolving it. … Batman’s just happen to be gadgets and fists. I guess if there’s a formula in the skeletal layer, it’s probably the same.” [Hero Complex]

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Comics A.M. | SPX apologizes for registration meltdown

SPX

SPX

Conventions | Small Press Expo organizers apologized to exhibitors for the problems they experienced trying to register for the show. Despite several server upgrades ahead of time, the site went down when the “tsunami” of applications hit on Sunday morning. They then opened up PayPal to take the table orders, but they were unable to shut it down when all the tables were sold. They are sorting it out now, and if the tables were oversold, refunds will be issued. Roger Langridge depicted his registration experience on his blog. [SPX Tumblr]

Publishing | After 13 years of publishing and promoting yuri manga, Erica Friedman is stepping down as Yuricon events chair and giving up on publishing: “I can’t afford print, you don’t want digital, the JP companies won’t talk to me and all the many differences between JP publishers and US fans are so huge and insurmountable. I don’t have the energy or clout or money to bridge the gap.” [Okazu]

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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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Comics A.M. | Platinum shareholders move to oust Rosenberg

Platinum Studios

Publishing | Heidi MacDonald reports that shareholders of Platinum Studios held a conference call Wednesday, with President Chris Beall sending a letter to founder Scott Rosenberg suspending him indefinitely as the company’s chief executive officer. Rich Johnston posted the press release announcing the call, and some of the topics on the agenda were fairly jaw-dropping. [The Beat]

Publishing | Andrews McMeel Publishing and Universal UClick (which are different divisions of the same company) are collaborating on a new line of digital comics, Udig, which collects themed newspaper strips into short e-books (the one I checked had 55 comics) for $2.99 each. [Good E-Reader]

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Comics A.M. | Amazing Spider-Man #700 racks up $1.6 million

The Amazing Spider-Man #700

Publishing | The Amazing Spider-Man #700 led the pack in the December comics numbers with 200,000 copies selling to comics shops, and with a cover price if $7.99, it racked up a cool $1.6 million in sales. Avengers #1 sold 186,000 copies but at a more reasonable price, so the dollars didn’t pile up as high for that one. ICv2 also has the December charts for the Top 300 comics and graphic novels in the direct market. John Jackson Miller takes it to the next level with sales estimates for the top 1,000 comics and trades of 2012. [ICv2]

Publishing | At the other end of the scale, Rob Clough talks to Chuck Forsman, the guy behind micropublisher Oily Comics. [The Comics Journal]

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Comics A.M. | DC Comics retains rights to The Spirit Archives

The Spirit Archives, Vol. 1

Publishing | DC Comics may no longer hold the rights to create new stories about The Spirit and other pulp heroes like Doc Savage and The Avenger, but it does retain the license to publish The Spirit Archives for “the foreseeable future,” according to Denis Kitchen, agent for the Will Eisner estate. Most of the hardcover collections are out of print. [The Beat]

Digital comics | Third time’s the charm for retailer Steve Bennett, as he goes through three different tablets (one was stolen, one malfunctioned) on his way to the ideal digital comics experience. [ICv2]

Creators | Tom Spurgeon kicks off his annual round of holiday interviews with a lengthy conversation with Alison Bechdel, creator of Fun Home and Are You My Mother? [The Comics Reporter]

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Comics A.M. | Cartoonist Bill White dies; superhero comics/film disparity

Bill White

Passings | Cartoonist and animator Bill White has died at the age of 51. According to his Lambiek page, White studied animation at the Kubert School and was a penciler and inker for a number of publishers, including DC Comics, Marvel, Archie, Disney and Harvey. His animation work included stints on Ren and Stimpy and Inspector Gadget. Infinite Hollywood has a nice remembrance. [The Daily Cartoonist]

Comics | Jim Beard looks at the apparent contradiction between the mass popularity of superhero movies and the relatively limited audience for the comics that spawned them; Mark Waid attributes this to a lack of comics shops, while Ethan Van Sciver thinks that most people simply have a hard time reading comics. Two local retailers weigh in as well, making this an interesting and well-rounded overview of the problem. [Toledo Free Press]

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Comics A.M. | Sony’s PSP Comic Store to close Oct. 30

PSP Comic Store

Digital comics | Sony is shutting down its PSP Comic Store as of Oct. 30. After that, readers will no longer be able to purchase new comics from the store, although they will be able to download at least some previously purchased comics until January 2013. After that, the whole thing is just gone. Sony pulled something similar in Japan, but its new PS Vita store includes a manga service. The PSP doesn’t seem to have been a very popular medium for reading comics in the United States, but it’s too bad that those who did take a chance on it have no way to permanently preserve their comics in a way that isn’t dependent on an aging piece of hardware. [Engadget]

Publishing | The Brooklyn Daily chats a bit with Sean Howe, the writer of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, whose book includes an account of Marvel founder Martin Goodman, a Brooklynite who gave Stan Lee his first gig but was barely remembered by the company when he died. [Brooklyn Daily]

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It’s official: The Dandy to cease print publication

Rumors have been flying that DC Thomson was considering shutting down The Dandy, and today the publisher confirmed the news, announcing it will cease print publication of the United Kingdom’s longest-running comic following the Dec. 4 release of the 75th anniversary issue.

It’s strictly a matter of numbers, with the magazine selling fewer than 8,000 copies each week. This may not be curtains for The Dandy, however: It appears the comic will continue in digital form, with chief executive Ellis Watson telling The Guardian that, “It’s what comes online then that will set the tone for the next 75 years.” Perhaps there The Dandy will find the larger audience it deserves. The website was taken down a few days ago to deter potential hackers, but the current incarnation invites visitors to leave their e-mails so they can be “the first to know,” which implies there may be news in the future.

The Dandy writer Lew Stringer offered his reactions to The Dandy‘s possible demise, and urged people to pick up a copy of the comic, although he acknowledged that may not be easy to do, as many newsagents no longer carry it. Artist Jamie Smart had an article in The Guardian about why The Dandy is important, and he has more at his blog:

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Comics A.M. | Top Cow reveals Cyber Force retailer incentives

Cyber Force

Publishing | Top Cow Productions has announced details of its retailer program for the relaunch of Cyber Force, which is using Kickstarter to raise enough money to make the first five issues of the reimagined series available for free, both digitally and in print: Retailers will be charged 25 cents per copy for the first five issues, but will receive incentive variant covers — with suggested prices of $10 and $20 — to offset the cost of the comics. The Kickstarter campaign has raised more than $50,000 of its $75,000 goal with 17 days remaining. [ICv2]

Publishing | Former DC Comics editor Janelle Asselin, who now works for Disney, talks about her experiences at the editor’s desk and offers one reason there are so few female superhero comics creators: Women aren’t lining up for the job. “In my time at DC, exactly one woman reached out to me via email, and I hired her,” she said. “I didn’t hire her BECAUSE she was a woman, I hired her because she was good, of course. But in that same amount of time, probably at least two or three men a week contacted me looking for work, some of them intensely pushy and many of them decidedly not good. I think more female creators should put themselves out there. The numbers are growing, we all can see that, especially in indie comics and comics published by traditional publishers, but if there are women who want to work on super hero books, they need to speak up.” [Women Write About Comics]

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Comics A.M. | Bidding for Superman check pushes past $31,000

Action Comics #1

Auctions | Bids for the $412 check from Detective Comics to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster that includes a $130 line item for the rights to Superman have already surpassed $31,000 in less than three days at auction on ComicConnect.com. The auction ends April 16. [ABC News, The New York Times]

Creators | Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo is working on a new series that will run in a Japanese shonen (boys’) magazine. [Anime News Network]

Comic strips | Richard Thompson is back on the job at Cul de Sac, with some help from Stacy Curtis, who will be inking the strip. [Cul de Sac]

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Comics A.M. | Matt Groening donates $500,000 for UCLA chair

Matt Groening, by Matt Groening

Creators | The Simpsons creator Matt Groening has given $500,000 toward the creation of a chair in animation at the University of California, Los Angeles. The Matt Groening Chair in Animation at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television will “allow visiting master artists to teach classes” and “bring working professionals with wide-ranging expertise” to work with students. The cartoonist, a graduate of Evergreen State College in Washington, makes an annual $50,000 donation to UCLA to help students who create socially conscious animated shorts. [The New York Times]

Legal | Attorneys for comics retailer and convention organizer Michael George, who’s serving a life sentence for the 1990 murder of his first wife Barbara, made arguments Monday on a motion for acquittal or a new trial — that would make George’s third — on the basis that there was insufficient evidence for conviction, and that the prosecutor raised a new issue in closing arguments. [Detroit Free Press]

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Comics A.M. | Thief steals all 64 volumes of One Piece

One Piece, Vol. 46

Crime | An energetic thief stole all 64 volumes of One Piece from a Japanese bookstore by stuffing 10 volumes at a time in his duffel bag. As One Piece is the most popular manga in Japan, he could have gotten a good price for his booty at a used manga store, had the forces of law not intervened. [Kotaku]

Legal | Michael Cavna talks with cartoonist Susie Cagle about being taken into custody again over the weekend during Occupy Oakland protests. [Comic Riffs]

Creators | Kiss member Gene Simmons still remembers the postcard he got from Stan Lee as a kid. [Noisecreep]

Comics | Jeff Parker and Erica Moen’s webcomic Bucko has reached its last panel, but Parker says a book is on the way, and there will be “exciting news” at Emerald City Comic Con. [Parkerspace]

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Comics A.M. | How to save the struggling manga industry

Lucky Star

Publishing | Longtime industry hand Jason Thompson has written a thoughtful essay on why the manga industry is in trouble, going beyond the American scene to point out structural problems in the Japanese market: An aging readership, the decline of print and the reluctance of Japanese publishers to embrace digital publishing in any coherent way. “Perhaps wary of creating an iTunes-like behemoth which could drive prices down,” Thompson writes, “publishers haven’t united in any reasonable way to create a consistent digital newsstand/bookstore format for their titles.” This, of course, has just made life easier for the scanlators. He also points to a shift toward the individual creator — it’s the big publishers who are hurting, while self-published and indy manga are on the rise. All this may sound familiar to American comics fans, but Thompson’s prescriptions for the future — more gag manga, simpler art, more color, and motion comics — don’t seem like convincing ways to rescue the industry. An iTunes-like behemoth is probably the way to go. [io9]

Awards | The Horror Writers Association has released the preliminary ballot for the 2011 Bram Stoker Awards, which includes a graphic novel category. [Horror Writers Association]

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Comics A.M. | Justice League #1 sells 360,000 copies in four months

Justice League #1

Publishing | Four months in, the DC Comics relaunch seems to be a success. The most recent sales figures show Justice League #1 selling more than 360,000 copies since August, and Batman #1 and Action Comics #1 selling more than 250,000. By contrast, Marvel’s strongest seller was Ultimate Spider-Man #160, which was in the 160,000-copy neighborhood. These figures seem to reflect sales in the direct market only; it would be interesting to see how many digital copies have been sold. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Awards | Nominations are open for this year’s Eagle Awards. [Eagle Awards]

Retailing | San Francisco retailer Brian Hibbs shares the top-selling graphic novels in his store for 2011, by units and by dollars. [Savage Critics]

Retailing | Christopher Butcher looks back on the events of the past year in the comics store he manages, Toronto’s The Beguiling. [The Beguiling blog]

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