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Previews: What Looks Good for September

It’s time once again for our monthly trip through Previews looking for cool, new comics. Michael and Graeme have each picked the five new comics we’re most anticipating in order to create a Top 10 of the best new comics 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.

Stumptown: The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case #1

Graeme McMillan

Blacklung HC (Fantagraphics Books, $24.99): This one grabbed me as soon as I read the high-concept in the solicits: A man decides to be as evil as possible so that he’ll be reunited with his dead wife in Hell when he dies. Depressing, existential AND romantic? I couldn’t sign up quickly enough for Chris Wright’s original graphic novel debut.

Chris Ware: Building Stories HC (Pantheon Books, $50.00): To be honest, I run hot and cold on Ware’s work; as a formalist, he’s wonderful and his work is technically perfect, but I don’t always get the emotional hook that I want from his work, and that’s a real problem for me. Luckily (or not? This is a pricey book to gamble on), the technical aspects of this box set of interrelated publications, all seen for the first time here, sounds interesting enough to sample no matter how cold the writing leaves me. Damn my curiosity about comics formats!

Happy! #1 (of 4) (Image Comics, $2.99): I’ll admit it; I’m more than a little dubious about the “It’s a hit man teaming up with a magical flying My Little Pony” set-up of this new series, but it’s Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson, so I almost feel a sense of “How bad can it actually BE?”

Steed and Mrs. Peel #1 (BOOM! Studios, $3.99): I’ve always enjoyed the old Avengers TV show at something of arm’s length, having only seen a handful of episodes (but enjoyed them greatly); what draws me to this new series is the presence of Mark Waid, who seems to be on fire these days between Insufferable and Daredevil.

Stumptown: The Case of the Baby in the Velvet Case #1 (Oni Press, $3.99): Oh, you should’ve seen me when I found out this was finally coming out. Not only did I absolutely love the first Stumptown series a couple of years ago, but I’ve also been on a Greg Rucka novel re-reading kick recently, so finding out that Dex’s client for this new story is the lead character from A Fistful of Rain made me almost impossibly happy. Easily my most-anticipated book of the month.

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Food or Comics? | BatterPug

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.

Battlepug, Volume 1

Chris Arrant

If I (only) had $15, I’d first pick up Creator Owned Heroes #2 (Image, $3.99). This format is something I revel in, and it doesn’t hurt to have good comics like those from Palmiotti, Gray, Noto, Niles and Mellon. After that I’d get the long-awaited Infernal Man-Thing #1 (Marvel, $3.99). I only found out about this delayed-’80s series in the early 2000s, but I had the chance to speak to Kevin Nowlan about a year back and we talked at length about the book. He showed me some art and I was sold. Third on my list would be Invincible #93 (Image, $2.99). The Walking Dead might be getting all the attention, but if I had to chose between all of the books Kirkman’s written it’d easily be Invincible. He and artists Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley continue to bring their A-game here, and this new format with Ottley and Walker trading pages is great. With the last bit of my $15 I’d pick up Avengers Vs. X-Men #7 (Marvel, $3.99). This has easily become one of the greatest event series since Civil War, and the last issue in particular sold it with the twin stylings of Jonathan Hickman and Olivier Coipel. You might say I have diminished thresholds when it comes to event series, but I see it as a different kind of comic than, I don’t know, Dan Clowes or something. It’s its own thing, and in this case it’s very good at it.

If I had $30, I’d get Mike Norton’s Battlepug HC (Dark Horse, $14.99). Call me a fool for buying a free webcomic in trade, but I missed the boat when this was coming out online. Norton has won me over with his work through the years and I have no problem shelling out $15 bucks to see it in this hardcover format – even if I’m not a dog person.

And for splurging, I’d get Ed Piskor’s Wizzywig HC (Top Shelf, $19.95). This is exactly the kind of book that fits in my wheelhouse, but like Battlepug I missed out on this when it was first published. Like some sort of Hackers movie done right (sorry Angelina!), I want to learn more about this and eschew my status as a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.

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Food or Comics? | Team Cul de Sacher torte

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.

Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse, Volume 3: High Noon at Inferno Gulch

Chris Mautner

If I had $15, Casanova: Avaritia #4 would be the first thing I’d pick up. I’ve been enjoying Matt Fraction and Gabriel Ba’s return to their dimension-hopping super-spy immensely and am looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up.

If I had $30, I’d make the difficult choice between two top-notch offerings from Fantagraphics this week. One: New York Mon Amour, a collection of Manhattan-themed stories by the one and only Jacques Tardi, including the Kalfkaesque “Cockroach Killer.” The other would be the third volume in the ongoing Mickey Mouse collection, High Noon at Inferno Gulch. I’m an unabashed Floyd Gottfredson fan, so the Mickey book would probably win out. But I’d be sure to save my coins for next week so I can get the Tardi book then.

Assuming I don’t blow all my splurge dough on the Tardi book, there’s a number of solid options here: Out of the Shadows, a collection of Mort Meskin’s early non-DC work; Bill the Boy Wonder, a new prose biography of Batman co-creator Bill Finger; and a Challengers of the Unknown Omnibus featuring Jack Kirby’s run. If I were in a charitable mood, however, I’d likely snap up Team Cul de Sac, the anthology/art book/tribute to Richard Thompson’s delightful comic strip featuring contributions from folks like Lynn Johnston, Mort Walker, Gary Trudeau and even Bill Watterson! Proceeds from the book go to help fight Parkinson’s disease, which Thompson unfortunately suffers from. It’s hard for me to think of a more worthy – or potentially enjoyable – book to spend your money on this week.

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Food or Comics? | Creator Owned Hero Sammiches

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.

DMZ, Volume 12: The Five Nations of New York

Graeme McMillan

Here’s the thing: I really can’t decide if I want to spend part of my $15 this week on Before Watchmen: Minutemen #1 (DC, $3.99). On the one hand, it’s a new Darwyn Cooke comic, and on almost every other occasion, I’d be all over that. But on the other … It’s Before Watchmen. And I don’t even mean that in the “I have moral qualms about DC’s ‘ownership’ and use of the characters” sense — although I do — but in the “I didn’t actually LIKE Watchmen that much, so why should I be interested in a prequel?” sense. Let’s table that one, then, and wait and see what happens in the store. Instead, I’ll grab Earth 2 #2 (DC, $2.99), the new Simon Spurrier book Extermination #1 (BOOM!, $1) and the weirdly-coming-out-a-month-before-the-movie Amazing Spider-Man Movie Adaptation #1 (Marvel, $2.99), if only because it’s been years since I’ve read a comic book adaptation of a movie and I want to support Marvel’s odd apparently-spoiling-itself plan.

If I had $30, I’d put Spidey back on the shelf and grab the final DMZ collection (Vol. 12: The Five Nations of New York, DC $14.99). I’ve been following the collections of Brian Wood’s series for awhile, and have been patiently awaiting this one since the series wrapped in single issues awhile back. Don’t spoil it for me, please.

Splurge-wise, I’d likely pick up the GI Joe, Vol. 2: Cobra Command, Part 1 TP (IDW, $17.99). The movie may have been put back, but I don’t care; IDW’s Joe comics are my brand of military machismo, and I dropped off the single issues in favor of collections as soon as this crossover started. Time to get caught back up and try not to think about poor Channing Tatum.

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Introducing SpyGal, the first … pore-zapping action hero?

Marvel’s custom-publishing division has teamed with San Francisco-based Benefit Cosmetics to create SpyGal, billed as the “first-ever beauty-inspired comic book hero.” What does “beauty-inspired” mean? In this case, it’s that SpyGal, and her “wise-cracking, pore-zapping persona,” is based on Benefit’s POREfessional pore-minimizing primer.

Yeah, I don’t know what to do with that either, but it’s tough to pass up a SpyGal comic — “She’s smooth! She’s sexy! She’s your secret weapon against pores!” — by Phil Noto and James Asmus, available beginning this month at Benefit counters. Come on, it’s Phil Noto!

“SpyGal is a dynamic, nuanced hero for a new generation,” Marvel’s John Dokes said in a statement, “and combining that with the unparalleled storytelling of Marvel brings fans one of the most unique comics they’ll read all year.”

Check out the sneak peek, and full press release, below.

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Comics A.M. | The Avengers, comics and the evolution of storytelling

The Avengers #1

Comics | With the success of The Avengers film, Kendall Whitehouse discusses the narrative techniques comics have “explored and exploited,” including “multi-issue story arcs, crossovers, team-ups, reboots and multiple title tie-ins,” noting they not only help sell more comics but also have blazed the trail for complex stories: “The story has now become a world unto its own that allows the reader to explore whichever dimensions are of the greatest interest. Follow the events from the perspective of Iron Man or Thor. Or just peruse the core series and ignore the supplementary story elements. The series presents a nearly unbounded narrative universe for the reader to experience. It is easy to interpret this with a cynical eye as nothing more than a series of cheap marketing tactics designed to pump sales. And yet, when well executed, something larger emerges.” [Knowledge@Wharton Today]

Retailing | Saturday’s Free Comic Book Day also served as the grand opening for Aw Yeah Comics, a store in Skokie, Illinois, owned (as the name suggests) by Tiny Titans creators Art Baltazar and Franco Aureliani and retail veteran Marc Hammond. [Skokie Review, Time Out Chicago]

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Gary Friedrich case spurs debate about convention sketches

Reacting to analysis of Marvel’s much-publicized dispute with Ghost Rider creator Gary Friedrich, Joe the Barbarian artist Sean Gordon Murphy has announced he’ll no longer sell convention sketches or commissions of characters he doesn’t own, and encourages other creators to do the same.

“Am I rolling over in fear of Marvel? Maybe, but [...] they’re in their legal right to come after me if there’s ever a dispute,” Murphy wrote this morning on deviantART. “I love to complain about the Big Two, but I can’t (in good conscience) get upset at them if I’m breaking the rules myself. Being DC exclusive, maybe I can get a waiver that allows me to sketch DC characters, so I’ll keep you updated.”

Friedrich sued Marvel, Sony Pictures and other companies in 2007, claiming the rights to Ghost Rider had reverted to him six years earlier because the publisher never registered the character’s first appearance in 1972′s Marvel Spotlight #5 with the U.S. Copyright Office. Marvel counter-sued in 2010, seeking damages from Friedrich who, through Gary Friedrich Enterprises LLC, had produced and sold unauthorized Ghost Rider posters, cards and T-shirts at conventions and online. The company also asserted that Friedrich had “aided and abetted third parties” in reproducing and selling “graphic and narrative elements” of Ghost Rider comics.

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A Month of Wednesdays | Muppets, mutants and more in January’s graphic novels

Dark Crystal: Creation Myths Vol. 1 (Archaia Entertainment) Here is what the notes I took while reading this book say, in their entirety:  “Kinda boring” and “Needs more Skeksis.”

Let me try to expand upon them a bit.

The first in a planned trilogy of original graphic novels, Creation Myths certainly lives up to its name.

Brian Froud, the creature designer who was integral in the creation of the 1982 film is credited with “Concept, character designs and cover,” and he also pens an introduction. Brian Holguin writes, while the talented Alex Sheikman and Lizzy John provide the art. Prose encapsulations of several of the stories follow, so that different versions of the same “myths” co-exist between the covers.

The work is all fine, but I found it lacking a relevance or urgency, due perhaps to how far it is removed from what I know or care of the setting and premise of the original film (a drawback that might fade in succeeding volumes) and to a more insurmountable deficiency of the medium: Comics can’t capture puppetry, the jolt of sheer wonder that accompanied seeing such bizarre creatures move so naturalistically across a movie screen that proved the film’s greatest and most enduring virtue.

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Phil Noto pays tribute to the Fantastic Four

Reed and Sue Richards and Ben Grimm, by Phil Noto

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Fantastic Four, Phil Noto offers an amazing “snapshot” of Sue and Reed Richards and Ben Grimm taken early in their career. In case you can’t read the caption, it says, “Sue and Reed Richards (also pictured, Benn Grimm) at dinner hosted by Robert F. Kennedy, 1965.”

Themed sketchbooks: Lan Pitts’ Zatanna sketchbook

Zatanna by Phil Noto

In our first two installments of our spotlight on themed sketchbooks we’ve had classic heroes and classic actresses; in today’s installment, we mix those together and sprinkle a little bit of magic on it. Comics blogger Lan Pitts has traveled to various conventions and collected an all-star assortment of talents in the effort of illustrating DC’s magician, Zatanna.

“My first job was as a magician’s assistant,” Pitts tells Robot 6. “I’ve always been fascinated by magic and it’s history. I had a few Zatanna sketches in my other sketchbooks and realized I loved to see what an artist would do for her than any other character. So she became my “totem” character, if you will, and I just wanted her to have her own sketchbook.”

Pitts has accumulated over fifteen renditions of Zatanns in his themed sketchbook, but has plenty of room for more. He collected a few new additions at DragonCon earlier this year, and hopes to attend New York ComicCon in October for more.

Whether you’re an artist who wants to sketch in this unique book or just a fan who wants to see more, visit Pitt’s blog for more information.

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