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What Are You Reading?

Saga #1

Hello and welcome to What Are You Reading?, our weekly look at what the Robot 6 crew have been checking out recently. To see for yourself, click below …

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Comics A.M. | Creators, publishers speak out against SOPA, PIPA

Neil Gaiman

Internet | Sandman co-creator Neil Gaiman joined with Trent Reznor, Aziz Ansari, OK Go and 14 other members of the creative community in signing an open letter to Congress against the PROTECT IP Act and the Stop Online Piracy Act. “We fear that the broad new enforcement powers provided under SOPA and PIPA could be easily abused against legitimate services like those upon which we depend. These bills would allow entire websites to be blocked without due process, causing collateral damage to the legitimate users of the same services – artists and creators like us who would be censored as a result,” the letter states.

Warren Ellis and Fantagraphics have also come out against the bill, while Peter David, who is against the bill in its current form, takes aim at those who “endorsed the piracy, supported the piracy, enabled the piracy, felt their own actions weren’t piracy, and now refuse to accept the consequences of their own actions.” ComicsAlliance has posted an editorial against the bill and rounded up webcomic reactions to the blackout. [NeilGaiman.com]

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Comics A.M. | Charges dropped against Susie Cagle in Occupy arrest

Susie Cagle

Legal | Cartoonist Susie Cagle, who was arrested last month while covering Occupy Oakland, says she has been cleared of all charges by the Oakland Police Department. The Society of Professional Journalists sent a letter to the Oakland police condemning the arrest, which ultimately assisted in getting the charges dropped. The letter called out the department’s crowd management policy, which says, “Even after a dispersal order has been given, clearly identified media shall be permitted to carry out their professional duties in any area where arrests are being made, unless their presence would unduly interfere with the enforcement action.” [Fishbowl LA]

Conventions | San Diego City Council approved a plan to have San Diego hotels pay for a $520 million convention center expansion. The plan moves to a second hearing in January and requires a vote of two-thirds of the hotels that cast ballots for approval. [NBC San Diego]

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Comics A.M. | Fan/pro Bill of Rights; comics used in major drug ring

Bill of Rights

Creators | Writer Peter David shares a “Fan/Pro Bill of Rights” related to proper behavior at conventions, starting with a “Prime Directive”: “Fans and Pros have the right to be treated by each other with the same courtesy that they themselves would expect to be treated. Fans and Pros who act like jerks abrogate the right to complain when they themselves are treated like jerks.” [Peter David]

Crime | A Denver judge sentenced Aaron Castro to 45 years in prison after Castro pleaded guilty to drug and extortion charges. Prosecutors say he ran a major methamphetamine distribution ring and laundered the profits by buying and selling valuable comics in the collector’s market. [KMGH Denver]

Digital | Robot 6 contributor Graeme McMillan catches an error in Marvel’s press release from last week: Marvel was not the first comics publisher to release an entire line of comics simultaneously in print and digital—Archie Comics was. [Blog@Newsarama]

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Comics A.M. | Comics market on the verge of a turnaround?

Action Comics #1

Comics | ICv2′s latest report on the comics market shows a mixed picture for monthly comics and graphic novels. While DC’s New 52 reboot has helped push comics sales, the graphic-novel versions of those comics won’t be out for months — and Amazon is gobbling up a larger and larger share of graphic novel sales, especially at the high end. And this is interesting: “Digital sales are growing as a percentage of the market, but apparently not at the expense of print sales. Retailers interviewed by ICv2 do not feel they’re losing sales to digital competition on DC’s day and date titles.” That seems to be more anecdote than data, but you would think retailers would be the first to notice a drop in sales. The report also includes lists of the top 10 properties in various categories. [ICv2]

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Comics A.M. | Robert Crumb explains withdrawal from festival

Robert Crumb

Creators | Robert Crumb pens a letter to The Sydney Morning Herald, explaining why he pulled out of the Graphic 2011 festival: “I was quite alarmed when I read the article in the Sunday Telegraph. I showed it to my wife, Aline, who said, ‘That’s it, you’re not going.’ She got a very bad feeling from the article. She feared I might be attacked physically by some angry, outraged person who simply saw red at the mention of child molesters. She remarked she’d never seen any article about me as nasty as this one.” Sunday Telegraph staff writer Claire Harvey, meanwhile, responds to Crumb’s comments and criticisms lobbed at the newspaper: “Crumb seems to be living in fear of the reaction he once sought to provoke. It seems a sad place for any artist to be.” [The Sydney Morning Herald]

Passings | Kim Thompson eulogizes Argentina cartoonist Francisco Solano López, who passed away on Friday. [The Comics Journal]

Conventions | Reporting from this weekend’s Wizard World Chicago, the Chicago Tribune talks to former comic shop owner Gary Colabuono, who displayed rare ashcan editions of comics from the 1930s and 1940s featuring Superman, Superwoman, Superboy and Supergirl at the show. Blogger Matthew J. Brady has pictures of the ashcans, as well as a report from the show. [Chicago Tribune]

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Leonard Kirk takes over as artist on X-Factor in September

Madrox by Leonard Kirk

If you saw Marvel’s September solicitations yesterday you might have noticed Leonard Kirk’s name in the X-Factor listing. The artist confirms on his blog that he is working on the book now with his former Supergirl collaborator, writer Peter David. And he shares a whole bunch of sketches of the characters from the book, such as the above Madrox; head over there to check them out.


Chain Reactions | DC’s reboot, relaunch and new digital strategy

DC Comics

This week DC Comics made headlines and turned heads with its announcement that it would reboot and relaunch the majority of its titles this September. Titles will end, others will begin, DC’s current status quo will be rewritten and undone in a way we probably haven’t seen since Crisis on Infinite Earths or maybe Zero Hour or what have you. They’ve announced the fall will bring:

  • 52 new first issues, starting the last week in August with the launch of Justice League by Geoff Johns and Jim Lee
  • New creative teams, like Grant Morrison writing Superman Fabian Nicieza writing Teen Titans and James Robinson Tony Daniel on Hawkman. Gail Simone and Marc Guggenheim, meanwhile, won’t be writing Birds of Prey or Justice Society of America, respectively.
  • Day-and-date digital release of all the titles.
  • Pants for the women!

Such news brings reactions, of course, and here are just a few pull quotes from around the web … be sure to click through to read them in their entirety:

Tom Foss, Fortress of Soliloquy: “On one hand, I’m impressed that DC would do something this ballsy; gaining new readers means shaking things up and possibly stepping on some of the long-term fans’ toes, and this genre is in desperate need of new readers. On the other hand, this isn’t going to last. Marvel’s learned that the flipside to a new #1 is that you jettison the history and gravitas of a large number (and conversely, that large numbers–even without reason–have some kind of appeal), and Detective Comics is rapidly approaching that #900 milestone that Action Comics just hit, meaning there will be, at most, 19 months of this “renumbering” nonsense (Detective #881 ships in August) before we see some high numbers again.”

Tom Spurgeon, The Comics Reporter: “Overall, this sounds to me like that time when the older, dependable brother in a respected family gets sick of always being the source of stability and flips the fuck out and does something slightly nuts, with the knowledge that ultimately the family money takes care of him even if his crappy decisions goof up a few sets of lives tied into his own. I’ve thought in recent years that publishing entities companies like Marvel and DC should be concentrating on core readerships rather than mass ones, that growing their existing audience by 200 percent was a lot more reasonable a goal than somehow matching the heat and flash and cultural buzz that comes with something like that last Batman movie.”

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X-Factor wins GLAAD Media Award

X-Factor #208

Marvel’s X-Factor, by Peter David, Valentine De Landro and others, was honored Saturday night as outstanding comic book at the 22nd annual GLAAD Media Awards in San Francisco. Presented by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, the awards recognize media for their representations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and issues.

X-Factor features the characters Shatterstar and Rictor, whose romantic relationship — long a subject of online speculation and in-story winks — was finally confirmed in 2009. This is the second GLAAD nomination and first win for the series.

The other nominees this year for outstanding comic book were: Avengers: The Children’s Crusade, by Allan Heinberg, Jimmy Cheung and others (Marvel); Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by Joss Whedon, Brad Meltzer, Georges Jeanty, Scott Allie and others (Dark Horse); Fogtown, by Andersen Gabrych and Brad Rader (DC Comics/Vertigo); and Veronica, by Dan Parent (Archie Comics).

Lee, Deodato, Marz, Palmiotti, Conner and more contribute to Japan Needs Heroes

Japan Needs Heroes

Red Giant Entertainment has recruited several top names in the comics industry to contribute to Japan Needs Heroes, a graphic novel that aims to raise money for the Japan Society, a non-profit organization that has created a special disaster relief fund to aid victims of the Tohoku earthquake in Japan.

A press release that went out today from comiXology, which will distribute the book digitally when it is released, listed Stan Lee (who will provide the forward), Peter David, Ron Marz, Mike Deodato, Larry Hama, Jimmy Palmiotti, Elaine Lee, Amanda Conner, Howard Mackie and Brandon Peterson as contributors. You can find a list of additional creators on the book’s Kickstarter page, which Red Giant is using to fund the printing.

“My wife is from Japan,” said Benny R. Powell, CEO of Red Giant, “and her family still lives there. We hear daily reports of the fear and uncertainty they face. I realized we had to do something. Comics have a power to reach massive audiences and that’s a powerful thing. As more and more creators join our cause I believe we can raise a lot of money to help. This transcends any genre, medium, or publisher. This need is bigger than anything our world has ever faced, and we truly believe that together we can make a difference.”

WonderCon | My wrap-up report from last weekend’s con

Cyclops and Jean Grey

It’s been almost a week since WonderCon, so I figured if I was going to talk about it, I should talk about it soon before it’s old news. So, some brief thoughts on the big show …

–As many have said, the floor was busier this year compared to past years, especially on Saturday. Friday was better, but I can still remember a time when Friday meant easily moving through the exhibit hall and browsing booths without too many people surrounding you. Not so much this year. It seemed like there were more exhibitors, or at least more space was given to exhibitors, and the comic booths at the front of the hall seemed to be packed every time I went by. The line to buy the special Uncanny X-Men/San Francisco Giants variant cover at the Marvel booth was an intimidating thing on Friday, looping around the booth. I never even made it inside the DC booth because of the crowds. And any booth that had a signing going on — Image, IDW, Oni, BOOM! — brought lines. Hopefully all that traffic turned into decent sales for everyone on the floor. I know at least one comic company I spoke to was really happy with their sales on Saturday.

–I didn’t buy a lot at this show — my two purchases were the above-mentioned Giants/X-Men comic, and a copy of Pascal Girard’s Reunion from the Drawn and Quarterly table. Of course, I didn’t really spend a lot of time on the floor anyway … I was only there Friday and Saturday, and spent my time either covering panels, being on panels or writing about panels.

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Grumpy Old Fan | Going on about ongoing series, Part Two

Starman #0

[Last week I started a look back at DC’s ongoing series in a post-Crisis environment of annual line-wide events. Thanks as always to Mike’s Amazing World Of DC Comics for its invaluable data.]

The second half of the 1980s was, to put it mildly, a transitional period for DC. Beginning with the watershed Crisis On Infinite Earths, most high-profile titles were relaunched, book by book — not just to take characters like Superman and Batman “back to basics,” but to open them up to new creative possibilities. Building on Crisis’ success, the publisher also tried to launch new titles from line-wide events.  By the early ‘90s, however, the speculator market was imposing its own will on the superhero books. …
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Fellow creators and fans remember Dwayne McDuffie

I’m still in shock over the sudden, tragic death of comics writer, Milestone Media co-founder and animation producer Dwayne McDuffie, as I’m sure many of his fans, friends and fellow creators are. I’ve rounded up some thoughts and memories from some of those folks, as well as a few items of note about memorials and some of his work.

  • If you’re attending the Emerald City Comicon March 4-6, they’ve announced a memorial panel remembering McDuffie that will take place Saturday at 7 p.m. in Room 4C1-2. Per writer Mark Waid, C2E2 is also planning to hold one.
  • Both Heidi MacDonald and Rich Johnston posted pages featuring the parakeet metaphor that McDuffie first introduced in Hardware #1 — a scene that, for me personally, sparked one of those lengthy late-night discussions about society, racism, politics and a whole lot of other things with my older brother. As Heidi points out, McDuffie revisited it in both X-O Manowar and at the end of the Milestone Forever two-parter, basically bookending the life of the Milestone Universe.
  • The Weekly Crisis, meanwhile, looks at a poignant page from McDuffie’s more recent Fantastic Four run.
  • The good folks at the Project: Rooftop site have declared “McDuffie Week” at their site, and have put out the call for redesigns of Static. Dean Trippe writes: “Dwayne’s work in the field of comics and animation was near-universally respected. His knowledge and understanding of the DCU heroes in particular, always meant a lot to me. He worked for Marvel, DC, founded Milestone along with Denys Cowan, Michael Davis and Derek T. Dingle, achieved more respect and admiration as a screenwriter for Justice League Unlimited and other DC animated projects, faithfully bringing the light of our heroes to the non-comics-reading public. Dwayne has left us far too soon, with too many wonderful stories left untold.”

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Grumpy Old Fan | Don’t know much about history

The Atlantis Chronicles #1

Last week’s big reorganization project is finished (for now) — but by reintroducing me to Peter David and Esteban Maroto’s The Atlantis Chronicles, it has already paid off.

The Atlantis Chronicles was a seven-issue 1990 miniseries designed to give Aquaman a more “classically mythic” backstory. Like the Old Testament or your average Shakespearean tragedy, it is full of intrigue, violence, sinister motives, and secret affairs. Along the way it traces the history of twin cities Poseidonis and Tritonis from their sinking to Aquaman’s birth, explaining such things as marine mental telepathy, why the Tritonistas are mer-people, and when the Idyllists broke off into their own community. It was all in service to a PAD-written Aquaman regular series which ended up being delayed for a few years; and which, when it finally did appear, produced the cranky, hook-handed Aquaman of the ‘90s. Re-reading The Atlantis Chronicles reminded me that some noteworthy plot elements — including an involuntary amputation — foreshadowed similar events in the later series. Some characters from TAC also reappeared in David’s Aquaman, further connecting the two.

I enjoyed The Atlantis Chronicles on its own merits, but I couldn’t help but think how it would have been treated better in today’s marketplace. That, in turn, got me thinking about the roles various “historical” DC miniseries played (and might still play) in the building of their legends.

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Comics A.M. | Another actor injured in Spider-Man musical mishap

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark

Broadway | A fourth actor was injured Monday night during a performance of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the $65-million musical that’s been plagued by delays and technical mishaps. Aerialist Christopher Tierney, who serves as a stunt double for Spider-Man and the villains Meeks and Kraven, fell about 30 feet when the cable to his harness snapped during the closing minutes of the show. Some equipment reportedly dropped into the audience as well. The performance was put on hold and then canceled as an ambulance arrived at the Foxwoods Theatre to take Tierney to Bellevue Hospital. Tierney is in stable condition, but no further information has been released. [BroadwayWorld, The Associated Press, CNN]

Publishing | Fantagraphics has laid off Dirk Deppey,The Comics Journal‘s online editor, former managing editor, and longtime writer of the Journalista! blog. His final day is Wednesday: “No regrets: The last ten years have kicked ass. I’ve done great things and meet interesting people, and was paid it. How great is that?” [Twitter]

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